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The University of Hong Kong Colon Cancer GCV Study

Background: Ganciclovir (GCV) is widely used in solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant patients for prophylaxis and treatment of cytomegalovirus. It has long been considered a mutagen and carcinogen. However, the contribution of GCV to cancer incidence and other factors that influence its mutagenicity remains unknown. Methods: This retrospective cohort study analysed genomics data for 121,771 patients who had undergone targeted sequencing compiled by the Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange (GENIE) or Foundation Medicine (FM). A statistical approach was developed to identify patients with GCV-associated mutational signature (GCVsig) from targeted sequenced data of tumour samples. Cell line exposure models were further used to quantify mutation burden and DNA damage caused by GCV and other antiviral and immunosuppressive drugs. Results: Mutational profiles from 22 of 121,771 patient samples in the GENIE and FM cohorts showed evidence of GCVsig. A diverse range of cancers was represented. All patients with detailed clinical history available had previously undergone solid organ transplantation and received GCV and mycophenolate treatment. RAS hotspot mutations associated with GCVsig¬¬ were present in 9 of the 22 samples, with all samples harbouring multiple GCV-associated protein-altering mutations in cancer driver genes. In vitro testing in cell lines showed that elevated DNA damage response and GCV¬sig are uniquely associated with GCV but not acyclovir, a structurally similar antiviral. Combination treatment of GCV with the immunosuppressant, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), increased the misincorporation of GCV in genomic DNA and mutations attributed to GCVsig in cell lines and organoids. Conclusions: In summary, GCV can cause a diverse range of cancers. Its mutagenicity may be potentiated by other therapies, such as mycophenolate, commonly co-prescribed with GCV for post-transplant patients. Further investigation of the optimal use of these drugs could help reduce GCV-associated mutagenesis in post-transplant patients.

Click on a Dataset ID in the table below to learn more, and to find out who to contact about access to these data

Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001009667 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 6
Publications Citations
Ganciclovir-induced mutations are present in a diverse spectrum of post-transplant malignancies.
Genome Med 14: 2022 124