Breast and prostate cancers harbor common somatic copy number alterations that consistently differ by race and are associated with survival

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

BMC Med Genomics


BACKGROUND: Pan-cancer studies of somatic copy number alterations (SCNAs) have demonstrated common SCNA patterns across cancer types, but despite demonstrable differences in aggressiveness of some cancers by race, pan-cancer SCNA variation by race has not been explored. This study investigated a) racial differences in SCNAs in both breast and prostate cancer, b) the degree to which they are shared across cancers, and c) the impact of these shared, race-differentiated SCNAs on cancer survival.

METHODS: Utilizing data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), SCNAs were identified using GISTIC 2.0, and in each tumor type, differences in SCNA magnitude between African Americans (AA) and European Americans (EA) were tested using linear regression. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering of the copy number of genes residing in race-differentiated SCNAs shared between tumor types was used to identify SCNA-defined patient groups, and Cox proportional hazards regression was used to test for association between those groups and overall/progression-free survival (PFS).

RESULTS: We identified SCNAs that differed by race in breast (n = 58 SCNAs; permutation p < 10(- 4)) and prostate tumors (n = 78 SCNAs; permutation p = 0.006). Six race-differentiated SCNAs common to breast and prostate found at chromosomes 5q11.2-q14.1, 5q15-q21.1, 8q21.11-q21.13, 8q21.3-q24.3, 11q22.3, and 13q12.3-q21.3 had consistent differences by race across both tumor types, and all six were of higher magnitude in AAs, with the chromosome 8q regions being the only amplifications. Higher magnitude copy number differences in AAs were also identified at two of these race-differentiated SCNAs in two additional hormonally-driven tumor types: endometrial (8q21.3-q24.3 and 13q12.3-q21.3) and ovarian (13q12.3-q21.3) cancers. Race differentiated SCNA-defined patient groups were significantly associated with survival differences in both cancer types, and these groups also differentiated within triple negative breast cancers based on PFS. While the frequency of the SCNA-defined patient groups differed by race, their effects on survival did not.

CONCLUSIONS: This study identified race-differentiated SCNAs shared by two related cancers. The association of SCNA-defined patient groups with survival demonstrates the clinical significance of combinations of these race-differentiated genomic aberrations, and the higher frequency of these alterations in AA relative to EA patients may explain racial disparities in risk of aggressive breast and prostate cancer.

PubMed ID






First Page


Last Page