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Colorectal cancer organoids expressing BRAF (fusion) genes

Fusion genes may be oncogenic drivers and potential targets for personalized therapies in a variety of cancer types. The BRAF gene is frequently involved in oncogenic fusions, with fusion frequencies of 0.2-3% throughout different cancers. BRAF can be fused to a wide variety of genes, however, BRAF fusions rarely occur in the exact same gene configuration, making assessment of the fusion relevance and decision for drug treatment challenging. Here, we devised a colorectal cancer organoid-based platform to functionally characterize diverse BRAF fusions, containing various partner genes (AGAP3, DLG1 and TRIM24). We compared these BRAF fusions with respect to cellular behaviour, downstream signaling activation and response to targeted therapies. We found that 5’ partner choice of BRAF affects cellular localization and intracellular signaling capacities of the fusion genes. The DLG1-BRAF fusion gene showed distinct localization to the plasma membrane and exhibited increased levels of MAPK pathway activation under unperturbed conditions. Furthermore, the different BRAF fusions showed varying sensitivities to the targeted inhibition of ERK and BRAF, with the DLG1-BRAF fusion being the most sensitive. Additionally, RNA-sequencing identified distinct subsets of genes affected by the DLG1-BRAF fusion gene. Importantly, all fusion genes conveyed resistance to the clinically relevant EGFR/HER2/HER4-inhibitor afatinib, suggesting that BRAF fusions should be screened alongside other MAPK pathway alterations to identify mCRC patients amenable to cetuximab treatment. In summary, we developed a platform to efficiently assess molecular and cellular effects of fusion genes, and revealed that differential drug responses and distinct gene expression profiles can be induced by different BRAF fusions .

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001005380 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 14