Background: Breast tumor subtyping has failed to provide impact in susceptibility genetics. The PAM50 assay categorizes breast tumors into: Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2-enriched and Basal-like. However, tumors are often more complex than simple categorization can describe. The identification of heritable tumor characteristics has potential to decrease heterogeneity and increase power for gene finding. Methods: We used 911 sporadic breast tumors with PAM50 expression data to derive tumor dimensions using principal components (PC). Dimensions in 238 tumors from high-risk pedigrees were compared with the sporadic tumors. Proof-of-concept gene mapping, informed by tumor dimension, was performed using Shared Genomic Segment (SGS) analysis. Results: Five dimensions (PC1-5) explained the majority of the PAM50 expression variance: three captured intrinsic subtype, two were novel (PC3, PC5). All five replicated in 745 TCGA tumors. Both novel dimensions were significantly enriched in the high-risk pedigrees (intrinsic subtypes were not). SGS gene-mapping in a pedigree identified a 0.5 Mb genome-wide significant region at 12q15. This region segregated through 32 meioses to 8 breast cancer cases with extreme PC3 tumors (P ¼ 2.6 10 8 ). Conclusions: PC analysis of PAM50 gene expression revealed multiple independent, quantitative measures of tumor diversity. These tumor dimensions show evidence for heritability and potential as powerful traits for gene mapping. Impact: Our study suggests a new approach to describe tumor expression diversity, provides new avenues for germline studies, and proposes a new breast cancer locus. Similar reparameterization of expression patterns May inform other studies attempting to model the effects of tumor heterogeneity. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 27(6); 644–52. 2018 AACR.
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