Gene Summary

Gene:BRAF; B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase
Aliases: NS7, BRAF1, RAFB1, B-RAF1
Summary:This gene encodes a protein belonging to the raf/mil family of serine/threonine protein kinases. This protein plays a role in regulating the MAP kinase/ERKs signaling pathway, which affects cell division, differentiation, and secretion. Mutations in this gene are associated with cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, a disease characterized by heart defects, mental retardation and a distinctive facial appearance. Mutations in this gene have also been associated with various cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, colorectal cancer, malignant melanoma, thyroid carcinoma, non-small cell lung carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma of lung. A pseudogene, which is located on chromosome X, has been identified for this gene. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008]
Databases:OMIM, VEGA, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:serine/threonine-protein kinase B-raf
Source:NCBIAccessed: 27 February, 2015


What does this gene/protein do?
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Pathways:What pathways are this gene/protein implicaed in?
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Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1990-2015)
Graph generated 27 February 2015 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

Tag cloud generated 27 February, 2015 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (5)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: BRAF (cancer-related)

Brown NA, Betz BL, Weigelin HC, et al.
Evaluation of allele-specific PCR and immunohistochemistry for the detection of BRAF V600E mutations in hairy cell leukemia.
Am J Clin Pathol. 2015; 143(1):89-99 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVES: Detection of BRAF V600E mutations in hairy cell leukemia (HCL) has important diagnostic utility. In this study, we sought to compare immunohistochemistry with an antibody specific for this mutation to a sensitive molecular assay.
METHODS: The performance of the BRAF V600E-specific VE1 antibody was compared with that of allele-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 22 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens with HCL involvement, along with nine splenic marginal zone lymphomas (SMZLs), 10 follicular lymphomas (FLs), 10 mantle cell lymphomas (MCLs), and 10 chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphomas (CLL/SLLs). An additional 11 SMZLs, 100 FLs, 20 MCLs, 83 CLL/SLL specimens, and 49 reactive tonsils within tissue microarrays were stained with VE1.
RESULTS: A BRAF V600E mutation was detected in 17 (77.3%) of 22 HCL cases by PCR. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated VE1 staining in 20 (90.9%) cases, identifying low-level (~1%) involvement in three HCL cases that were mutation negative by PCR. Evaluation of additional material from these patients confirmed the presence of BRAF V600E. Thirty-nine non-HCL cases were negative by both methods. Within tissue microarrays, weak false-positive staining was observed in two (0.8%) of 263 non-HCL cases.
CONCLUSIONS: VE1 immunohistochemistry is more sensitive than allele-specific PCR in FFPE bone marrow specimens and can be applied to decalcified core biopsy specimens that are not appropriate for molecular techniques.

Cohen AL, Colman H
Glioma biology and molecular markers.
Cancer Treat Res. 2015; 163:15-30 [PubMed] Related Publications
The tumors classified as gliomas include a wide variety of histologies including the more common (astrocytoma, glioblastoma), as well as the less common histologies (oligodendroglioma, mixed oligoastrocytoma, pilocytic astrocytoma). Recent efforts at comprehensive genetic characterization of various primary brain tumor types have identified a number of common alterations and pathways common to multiple tumor types. Common pathways in glioma biology include growth factor receptor tyrosine kinases and their downstream signaling via the MAP kinase cascade or PI3K signaling, loss of apoptosis through p53, cell cycle regulation, angiogenesis via VEGF signaling, and invasion. However, in addition to these common general pathway alterations, a number of specific alterations have been identified in particular tumor types, and a number of these have direct therapeutic implications. These include mutations or fusions in the BRAF gene seen in pilocytic astrocytomas (and gangliogliomas). In oligodendrogliomas, mutations in IDH1 and codeletion of chromosomes 1p and 19q are associated with improved survival with upfront use of combined chemotherapy and radiation, and these tumors also have unique mutations of CIC and FUBP1 genes. Low grade gliomas are increasingly seen to be divided into two groups based on IDH mutation status, with astrocytomas developing through IDH mutation followed by p53 mutation, while poor prognosis low grade gliomas and primary glioblastomas (GBMs) are characterized by EGFR amplification, loss of PTEN, and loss of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. GBMs can be further characterized based on gene expression and gene methylation patterns into three or four distinct subgroups. Prognostic markers in diffuse gliomas include IDH mutation, 1p/19q codeletion, and MGMT methylation, and MGMT is also a predictive marker in elderly patients with glioblastoma treated with temozolomide monotherapy.

Chai YJ, Kim YA, Jee HG, et al.
Expression of the embryonic morphogen Nodal in differentiated thyroid carcinomas: Immunohistochemistry assay in tissue microarray and The Cancer Genome Atlas data analysis.
Surgery. 2014; 156(6):1559-67; discussion 1567-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Nodal, an embryonic morphogen, plays a role in tumorigenesis of melanoma, breast, and prostate cancer; however, its role in thyroid carcinoma is unknown. We examined Nodal expression in thyroid tumors by immunohistochemistry assay and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) analysis.
METHODS: An immunohistochemistry assay was performed in a tissue microarray comprising 128 classic papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC), 58 follicular thyroid carcinomas (FTC), 19 follicular variants of PTC (FVPTC), 57 follicular adenomas (FA), 54 adenomatous goiters (AG), and 5 normal thyroid tissues. The TCGA database was examined to evaluate the expression of Nodal mRNA in normal thyroid and PTC.
RESULTS: The proportion of tumors showing negative Nodal expression in PTC, FTC, FVPTC, FA, and AG was 0%, 1.7%, 0%, 14%, and 41%, respectively. For the diagnosis of malignant tumors, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of positive Nodal staining was 99%, 27%, 72%, and 97%, respectively. High Nodal expression was associated with older age and BRAF mutation in PTC. TCGA analysis revealed PTC had greater Nodal mRNA expression than normal thyroid (P = .012).
CONCLUSION: Nodal staining might be useful "rule-out test" for the diagnosis of malignant thyroid tumor. Nodal may be associated with the tumorigenesis of thyroid malignancy.

Miccoli P, Torregrossa L, Borrelli N, et al.
E-selectin expression and BRAF status in papillary thyroid carcinomas: Correlation with clinicopathologic features.
Surgery. 2014; 156(6):1550-7; discussion 1557-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Cell adhesion molecules, represented by the immunoglobulin family and selectins, play an important role in the progression of cancer. A correlation between selectins and tumor aggressiveness has been demonstrated in several reports.
METHODS: Eighty-eight patients (mean age, 41.0 ± 14 years) with papillary thyroid carcinoma (conventional variant and sized approximately 20 mm) were divided in 2 groups: 41 with encapsulated tumors and 47 with tumors with extrathyroidal extension. E-selectin expression was evaluated by immunohistochemical staining and semiquantitative real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction and normalized by calculating the z-score (positive: value above the population mean; negative: below the mean).
RESULTS: Lymph node metastasis (LNM) was found in 2 of 41 encapsulated tumors (4.8%) and in 19 of 47 tumors (40.4%) with extrathyroidal extension. BRAF mutation was present in 21 encapsulated tumors (51.2%) and in 31 tumors with extrathyroidal extension (65.9%). The mean E-selectin z-score was -0.32 for encapsulated tumors and 0.28 for tumors with extrathyroidal extension. E-selectin expression correlates with neoplastic infiltration (P = .04), the American Joint Commission on Cancer stage (P = .02), and BRAF mutation (P = .03).
CONCLUSION: E-selectin overexpression in association with BRAF mutation status could promote a more aggressive phenotype in papillary thyroid carcinoma.

Erler P, Keutgen XM, Crowley MJ, et al.
Dicer expression and microRNA dysregulation associate with aggressive features in thyroid cancer.
Surgery. 2014; 156(6):1342-50; discussion 1350 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Altered miRNA expression and down-regulation of Dicer has been shown in various cancers. We investigated Dicer expression and global miRNA environment in correlation with malignant features of thyroid tumors.
METHODS: Dicer gene expression was assessed for 22 normal thyroids, 16 follicular adenomas, 28 papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs), 10 tall-cell variants of PTC, 11 follicular variants of PTC, as well as the four thyroid cell lines BCPAP, TPC1, KTC1, and TAD2 via quantitative polymerase chain reaction. BRAF((V600E)) mutation screening was completed for 31 neoplasms. Next-generation sequencing was performed on a subset of PTC and normal thyroid. Protein levels were assessed via Western blotting and immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: Dicer mRNA was down-regulated in malignant thyroid samples and cell lines compared with normal tissues, benign neoplasms, and the fetal cell line TAD2. Decreased Dicer gene expression in malignant tissues was correlated greatly with aggressive features: extrathyroidal extension, angiolymphatic invasion, multifocality, lymph node and distant metastasis, recurrence, and BRAF((V600E)) mutation. Conversely, increased levels of Dicer protein were observed in malignant tissues and cell lines. Sequencing yielded 19 differentially expressed miRNAs. Eight samples had a nonsignificant a global down-regulation in malignant tissues.
CONCLUSION: Dysregulation of Dicer and possibly altered expression of miRNAs are associated with aggressive features in thyroid cancers. These findings suggest that disruption in normal miRNA processing involving Dicer may play a role in thyroid cancer progression.

Samatar AA, Poulikakos PI
Targeting RAS-ERK signalling in cancer: promises and challenges.
Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2014; 13(12):928-42 [PubMed] Related Publications
The RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK signalling pathway is hyperactivated in a high percentage of tumours, most frequently owing to activating mutations of the KRAS, NRAS and BRAF genes. Recently, the use of compounds targeting components of ERK signalling, such as RAF or MEK inhibitors, has led to substantial improvement in clinical outcome in metastatic melanoma and has shown promising clinical activity in additional tumour types. However, response rates are highly variable and the efficacy of these drugs is primarily limited by the development of resistance. Both intrinsic and acquired resistance to RAF and MEK inhibitors are frequently associated with the persistence of ERK signalling in the presence of the drug, implying the need for more innovative approaches to target the pathway.

Zheng Z, Liebers M, Zhelyazkova B, et al.
Anchored multiplex PCR for targeted next-generation sequencing.
Nat Med. 2014; 20(12):1479-84 [PubMed] Related Publications
We describe a rapid target enrichment method for next-generation sequencing, termed anchored multiplex PCR (AMP), that is compatible with low nucleic acid input from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens. AMP is effective in detecting gene rearrangements (without prior knowledge of the fusion partners), single nucleotide variants, insertions, deletions and copy number changes. Validation of a gene rearrangement panel using 319 FFPE samples showed 100% sensitivity (95% confidence limit: 96.5-100%) and 100% specificity (95% confidence limit: 99.3-100%) compared with reference assays. On the basis of our experience with performing AMP on 986 clinical FFPE samples, we show its potential as both a robust clinical assay and a powerful discovery tool, which we used to identify new therapeutically important gene fusions: ARHGEF2-NTRK1 and CHTOP-NTRK1 in glioblastoma, MSN-ROS1, TRIM4-BRAF, VAMP2-NRG1, TPM3-NTRK1 and RUFY2-RET in lung cancer, FGFR2-CREB5 in cholangiocarcinoma and PPL-NTRK1 in thyroid carcinoma. AMP is a scalable and efficient next-generation sequencing target enrichment method for research and clinical applications.

Malapelle U, Vigliar E, Sgariglia R, et al.
Ion Torrent next-generation sequencing for routine identification of clinically relevant mutations in colorectal cancer patients.
J Clin Pathol. 2015; 68(1):64-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
AIMS: To evaluate the accuracy, consumable cost and time around testing (TAT) of a next-generation sequencing (NGS) assay, the Ion Torrent AmpliSeq Colon and Lung Cancer Panel, as an alternative to Sanger sequencing to genotype KRAS, NRAS and BRAF in colorectal cancer patients.
METHODS: The Ion Torrent panel was first verified on cell lines and on control samples and then prospectively applied to routine specimens (n=114), with Sanger sequencing as reference.
RESULTS: The Ion Torrent panel detected mutant alleles at the 5% level on cell lines and correctly classified all control tissues. The Ion Torrent assay was successfully carried out on most (95.6%) routine diagnostic samples. Of these, 12 (11%) harboured mutations in the BRAF gene and 47 (43%) in either of the two RAS genes, in two cases with a low abundance of RAS mutant allele which was missed by Sanger sequencing. The mean TAT, from sample receipt to reporting, was 10.4 (Sanger) and 13.0 (Ion Torrent) working days. The consumable cost for genotyping KRAS, NRAS and BRAF was €196 (Sanger) and €187 (Ion Torrent).
CONCLUSIONS: Ion Torrent AmpliSeq Colon and Lung Cancer Panel sequencing is as robust as Sanger sequencing in routine diagnostics to select patients for anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) therapy for metastatic colorectal cancer.

Chen S, Randolph M, Cramer HM, et al.
Detection of BRAF mutation in metastatic melanoma utilizing cell-transferred cytological smears.
Acta Cytol. 2014; 58(5):478-82 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVES: Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is frequently used to diagnose metastatic melanoma. In this study, we validated the use of cell-transferred cytological smears for BRAF molecular testing.
STUDY DESIGN: We conducted a search of our laboratory information system for the period 2011-2013 in order to identify surgical pathology cases of either primary or metastatic melanomas in which BRAF mutation analyses had already been performed. Thirty FNA cases with diagnoses of metastatic melanoma from the same patients were identified. Direct smears from each FNA case were selected for mutation analyses using the cell transfer technique.
RESULTS: Mutation analyses were successfully performed on 28 of 30 FNA cases (93%) using the cell-transferred cytological smears. In 25 cases (8 BRAF mutations and 17 BRAF wild types), there was 100% agreement for the BRAF mutation between the cell-transferred cytological smears and the formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Three FNA cases showed BRAF mutations that had not been detected in the correlated surgical specimens which were tested twice, and 2 cases failed to work.
CONCLUSIONS: Cell-transferred cytological smears are a reliable and alternative resource for detecting BRAF mutations in metastatic melanoma.

Hu J, Ahuja LG, Meharena HS, et al.
Kinase regulation by hydrophobic spine assembly in cancer.
Mol Cell Biol. 2015; 35(1):264-76 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/07/2015 Related Publications
A new model of kinase regulation based on the assembly of hydrophobic spines has been proposed. Changes in their positions can explain the mechanism of kinase activation. Here, we examined mutations in human cancer for clues about the regulation of the hydrophobic spines by focusing initially on mutations to Phe. We identified a selected number of Phe mutations in a small group of kinases that included BRAF, ABL1, and the epidermal growth factor receptor. Testing some of these mutations in BRAF, we found that one of the mutations impaired ATP binding and catalytic activity but promoted noncatalytic allosteric functions. Other Phe mutations functioned to promote constitutive catalytic activity. One of these mutations revealed a previously underappreciated hydrophobic surface that functions to position the dynamic regulatory αC-helix. This supports the key role of the C-helix as a signal integration motif for coordinating multiple elements of the kinase to create an active conformation. The importance of the hydrophobic space around the αC-helix was further tested by studying a V600F mutant, which was constitutively active in the absence of the negative charge that is associated with the common V600E mutation. Many hydrophobic mutations strategically localized along the C-helix can thus drive kinase activation.

Yang J, Hawkins OE, Barham W, et al.
Myeloid IKKβ promotes antitumor immunity by modulating CCL11 and the innate immune response.
Cancer Res. 2014; 74(24):7274-84 [PubMed] Related Publications
Myeloid cells are capable of promoting or eradicating tumor cells and the nodal functions that contribute to their different roles are still obscure. Here, we show that mice with myeloid-specific genetic loss of the NF-κB pathway regulatory kinase IKKβ exhibit more rapid growth of cutaneous and lung melanoma tumors. In a BRAF(V600E/PTEN(-/-)) allograft model, IKKβ loss in macrophages reduced recruitment of myeloid cells into the tumor, lowered expression of MHC class II molecules, and enhanced production of the chemokine CCL11, thereby negatively regulating dendritic-cell maturation. Elevated serum and tissue levels of CCL11 mediated suppression of dendritic-cell differentiation/maturation within the tumor microenvironment, skewing it toward a Th2 immune response and impairing CD8(+) T cell-mediated tumor cell lysis. Depleting macrophages or CD8(+) T cells in mice with wild-type IKKβ myeloid cells enhanced tumor growth, where the myeloid cell response was used to mediate antitumor immunity against melanoma tumors (with less dependency on a CD8(+) T-cell response). In contrast, myeloid cells deficient in IKKβ were compromised in tumor cell lysis, based on their reduced ability to phagocytize and digest tumor cells. Thus, mice with continuous IKKβ signaling in myeloid-lineage cells (IKKβ(CA)) exhibited enhanced antitumor immunity and reduced melanoma outgrowth. Collectively, our results illuminate new mechanisms through which NF-κB signaling in myeloid cells promotes innate tumor surveillance.

Varol U, Yildiz I, Salman T, et al.
Markers to predict the efficacy of bevacizumab in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.
Tumori. 2014 Jul-Aug; 100(4):370-6 [PubMed] Related Publications
The identification of clinical, biochemical and molecular markers to predict or monitor the efficacy of bevacizumab represents a major point in the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Studies and genetic analyses have been conducted to identify a predictive biomarker of bevacizumab efficacy. However, genes of the angiogenic pathway and angiogenic biomarkers vary substantially, thereby causing interindividual differences that complicate the identification of predictors for anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drugs like bevacizumab. So, the current challenge in bevacizumab treatment is to find predictive markers and implement them in clinical practice. In this review we have summarized the potential candidate biomarkers that may have a role in identifying patients who benefit most from bevacizumab treatment.

VandenBussche CJ, Illei PB, Lin MT, et al.
Molecular alterations in non-small cell lung carcinomas of the young.
Hum Pathol. 2014; 45(12):2379-87 [PubMed] Related Publications
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Gene alterations are significant in lung tumorigenesis, with certain genes (Kristen rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS), epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR], anaplastic lymphoma kinase [ALK], and B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase (BRAF)) possessing alterations important in the prognosis and treatment of lung adenocarcinoma. Mutation frequencies are affected by different patient factors, such as smoking history, age, and race. Because most lung cancers occur in patients older than age of 50 years, few studies have examined molecular alterations present in these younger patients. The pathology database was searched for patients age of 50 years or younger with non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs) tested for EGFR, ALK, KRAS, and/or BRAF alterations. A total of 53 cases were identified. The mean patient age was 44.4 years old, and there were 19 men and 34 women. Of the tumors, 11.6% had ALK rearrangements, 25.5% had KRAS mutations, and 20.0% had EGFR mutations. No BRAF mutations were identified in the 28 cases tested. All but 1 (92% [12/13]) tumor with KRAS mutation were from women patients. A smoking history of greater than 5 pack-years was associated with KRAS mutations and negatively associated with EGFR mutations and ALK translocation. The frequencies of EGFR mutation and ALK translocation in the study cohort are greater than the reported frequencies among NSCLC from adults of all ages in the United States but less than the reported frequencies among NSCLC from East Asian young adults. The frequency of KRAS mutation is significantly greater than what was previously found in young Japanese patients.

Nummela P, Saarinen L, Thiel A, et al.
Genomic profile of pseudomyxoma peritonei analyzed using next-generation sequencing and immunohistochemistry.
Int J Cancer. 2015; 136(5):E282-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
Pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP) is a relatively rare clinical syndrome characterized by neoplastic epithelial cells growing in the peritoneal cavity and secreting mucinous ascites. Our aim was to explore the molecular events behind this fatal but under-investigated disease. We extracted DNA from 19 appendix-derived PMP tumors and nine corresponding normal tissues, and analyzed the mutational hotspot areas of 48 cancer-related genes by amplicon-based next-generation sequencing (NGS). Further, we analyzed the protein expression of V600E mutated BRAF, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and p53 from a larger set of PMP tumors (n = 74) using immunohistochemistry. With NGS, we detected activating somatic KRAS mutations in all of the tumors studied. GNAS was mutated in 63% of the tumors with no marked difference between low-grade and high-grade tumors. Only one (5.3%) tumor showed oncogenic PIK3CA mutation, one showed oncogenic AKT1 mutation, three (15.8%) showed SMAD4 mutations and none showed an APC mutation. P53 protein was aberrantly expressed in higher proportion of high-grade tumors as compared with low-grade ones (31.3 vs. 7.1%, respectively; p = 0.012) and aberrant expression was an independent factor for reduced overall survival (p = 0.002). BRAF V600E mutation was only found in one (1.4%) high-grade tumor by immunohistochemistry (n = 74). All the studied tumors expressed mismatch repair proteins MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6. Our results indicate that KRAS mutations are evident in all and GNAS mutations in most of the PMPs, but BRAF V600E, PIK3CA and APC mutations are rare. Aberrantly expressed p53 is associated with high-grade histology and reduced survival.

van der Wijst MG, Brown R, Rots MG
Nrf2, the master redox switch: the Achilles' heel of ovarian cancer?
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014; 1846(2):494-509 [PubMed] Related Publications
Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological tumor type in the world due to late stage detection, and resistance to chemotherapy. Therefore, alternative additional therapies are required. The etiology of ovarian cancer remains largely unknown, but risk factors point toward an important role for oxidative stress. Both healthy and tumor cells can cope with oxidative stress by activating the transcription factor Nrf2 (also known as Nfe2l2), the master regulator of antioxidant and cytoprotective genes. Indeed, for most ovarian cancers, aberrant activation of Nrf2 is observed, which is often associated with a copy number loss within the Nrf2-inhibitory complex KEAP1-CUL3-RBX1. A key role for Nrf2 in ovarian carcinogenesis has been validated by siRNA studies. However, to exploit the Nrf2 pathway for therapeutic interventions, potential side-effects should be minimized. In this review, we explore ovarian cancer specific factors with links to aberrant activity of Nrf2, to be exploited in future combination strategies, synergistic with direct Nrf2 inhibitory drugs. Particularly, we propose to stratify patients based on common ovarian cancer mutations (KRAS, BRAF, ERBB2, BRCA1 and its link with estradiol, TP53) for future NRF2 targeting strategies.

Pletneva MA, Andea A, Palanisamy N, et al.
Clear cell melanoma: a cutaneous clear cell malignancy.
Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2014; 138(10):1328-36 [PubMed] Related Publications
Clear cell melanoma is a rare clear cell malignancy. Accurate diagnosis of clear cell melanoma requires integration of immunohistochemical and morphologic findings, with molecular studies to rule out clear cell sarcoma. The differential diagnosis includes melanoma, carcinoma, perivascular epithelioid cell tumor, and epidermotropic clear cell sarcoma. We use a case of a lesion on the helix of an 86-year-old man as an example. Histologic examination revealed an ulcerated clear cell malignant tumor. Tumor cell cytoplasm contained periodic acid-Schiff-positive, diastase-sensitive glycogen. Tumor cells showed positive labeling for S100, HMB-45, and Melan-A, and negative labeling for cytokeratins, p63, and smooth muscle actin. Molecular studies demonstrated BRAF V600E mutation, copy gains at the 6p25 (RREB1) and 11q13 (CCND1) loci, and absence of EWSR1-ATF1 fusion. These findings supported a diagnosis of clear cell melanoma. The rare pure clear cell morphology occurs due to accumulation of intracytoplasmic glycogen. We review the differential diagnosis of clear cell melanoma and describe the utility of immunohistochemical and molecular studies in confirming this diagnosis.

Prigge ES, Urban K, Stiegler S, et al.
No evidence of oncogenic KRAS mutations in squamous cell carcinomas of the anogenital tract and head and neck region independent of human papillomavirus and p16(INK4a) status.
Hum Pathol. 2014; 45(11):2347-54 [PubMed] Related Publications
Carcinogenesis of squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) in the anogenital tract and head and neck region is heterogeneous. A substantial proportion of SCC in the vulva, anus, and head and neck follows a human papillomavirus (HPV)-induced carcinogenic pathway. However, the molecular pathways of carcinogenesis in the HPV-independent lesions are not completely understood. We hypothesized that oncogenic Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) mutations might represent a carcinogenic mechanism in a proportion of those HPV-negative cancers. Considering the repeated observation of KRAS-associated p16(INK4a) overexpression in human tumors, it was assumed that KRAS mutations might be particularly present in the group of HPV-negative, p16(INK4a)-positive cancers. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed 66 anal, vulvar, and head and neck SCC with known immunohistochemical p16(INK4a) and HPV DNA status for KRAS mutations in exon 2 (codons 12, 13, and 15). We enriched the tumor collection with HPV DNA-negative, p16(INK4a)-positive cancers. A subset of 37 cancers was also analyzed for mutations in the B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase (BRAF) gene. None of the 66 tumors harbored mutations in KRAS exon 2, thus excluding KRAS mutations as a common event in SCC of the anogenital and head and neck region and as a cause of p16(INK4a) expression in these tumors. In addition, no BRAF mutations were detected in the 37 analyzed tumors. Further studies are required to determine the molecular events underlying HPV-negative anal, vulvar, and head and neck carcinogenesis. Considering HPV-independent p16(INK4a) overexpression in some of these tumors, particular focus should be placed on alternative upstream activators and potential downstream disruption of the p16(INK4a) pathway.

Ashktorab H, Daremipouran M, Devaney J, et al.
Identification of novel mutations by exome sequencing in African American colorectal cancer patients.
Cancer. 2015; 121(1):34-42 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/01/2016 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to identify genome-wide single nucleotide variants and mutations in African American patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). There is a need of such studies in African Americans, because they display a higher incidence of aggressive CRC tumors.
METHODS: We performed whole exome sequencing (WES) on DNA from 12 normal/tumor pairs of African American CRC patient tissues. Data analysis was performed using the software package GATK (Genome Analysis Tool Kit). Normative population databases (eg, 1000 Genomes SNP database, dbSNP, and HapMap) were used for comparison. Variants were annotated using analysis of variance and were validated via Sanger sequencing.
RESULTS: We identified somatic mutations in genes that are known targets in CRC such as APC, BRAF, KRAS, and PIK3CA. We detected novel alterations in the Wnt pathway gene, APC, within its exon 15, of which mutations are highly associated with CRC.
CONCLUSIONS: This WES study in African American patients with CRC provides insight into the identification of novel somatic mutations in APC. Our data suggest an association between specific mutations in the Wnt signaling pathway and an increased risk of CRC. The analysis of the pathogenicity of these novel variants may shed light on the aggressive nature of CRC in African Americans.

Fang M, Ou J, Hutchinson L, Green MR
The BRAF oncoprotein functions through the transcriptional repressor MAFG to mediate the CpG Island Methylator phenotype.
Mol Cell. 2014; 55(6):904-15 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 18/09/2015 Related Publications
Most colorectal cancers (CRCs) containing activated BRAF (BRAF[V600E]) have a CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) characterized by aberrant hypermethylation of many genes, including the mismatch repair gene MLH1. MLH1 silencing results in microsatellite instability and a hypermutable phenotype. Through an RNAi screen, here we identify the transcriptional repressor MAFG as the pivotal factor required for MLH1 silencing and CIMP in CRCs containing BRAF(V600E). In BRAF-positive human CRC cell lines and tumors, MAFG is bound at the promoters of MLH1 and other CIMP genes, and recruits a corepressor complex that includes its heterodimeric partner BACH1, the chromatin remodeling factor CHD8, and the DNA methyltransferase DNMT3B, resulting in hypermethylation and transcriptional silencing. BRAF(V600E) increases BRAF/MEK/ERK signaling resulting in phosphorylation and elevated levels of MAFG, which drives DNA binding. Analysis of transcriptionally silenced CIMP genes in KRAS-positive CRCs indicates that different oncoproteins direct the assembly of distinct repressor complexes on common promoters.

Griewank KG, Murali R, Puig-Butille JA, et al.
TERT promoter mutation status as an independent prognostic factor in cutaneous melanoma.
J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014; 106(9) [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/09/2015 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Recently, TERT promoter mutations were identified at high frequencies in cutaneous melanoma tumor samples and cell lines. The mutations were found to have a UV-signature and to lead to increased TERT gene expression. We analyzed a large cohort of melanoma patients for the presence and distribution of TERT promoter mutations and their association with clinico-pathological characteristics.
METHODS: 410 melanoma tumor samples were analyzed by Sanger sequencing for the presence of TERT promoter mutations. An analysis of associations between mutation status and various clinical and pathologic variables was performed.
RESULTS: TERT promoter mutations were identified in 154 (43%) of 362 successfully sequenced melanomas. Mutation frequencies varied between melanoma subtype, being most frequent in melanomas arising in nonacral skin (48%) and melanomas with occult primary (50%), and less frequent in mucosal (23%), and acral (19%) melanomas. Mutations carried a UV signature (C>T or CC>TT). The presence of TERT promoter mutations was associated with factors such as BRAF or NRAS mutation (P < .001), histologic type (P = .002), and Breslow thickness (P < .001). TERT promoter mutation was independently associated with poorer overall survival in patients with nonacral cutaneous melanomas (median survival 80 months vs 291 months for wild-type; hazard ratio corrected for other covariates 2.47; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.29 to 4.74; P = .006).
CONCLUSIONS: UV-induced TERT promoter mutations are one of the most frequent genetic alterations in melanoma, with frequencies varying depending on melanoma subtype. In nonacral cutaneous melanomas, presence of TERT promoter mutations is independently associated with poor prognosis.

Zeppernick F, Ardighieri L, Hannibal CG, et al.
BRAF mutation is associated with a specific cell type with features suggestive of senescence in ovarian serous borderline (atypical proliferative) tumors.
Am J Surg Pathol. 2014; 38(12):1603-11 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/12/2015 Related Publications
Serous borderline tumor also known as atypical proliferative serous tumor (APST) is the precursor of ovarian low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC). In this study, we correlated the morphologic and immunohistochemical phenotypes of 71 APSTs and 18 LGSCs with the mutational status of KRAS and BRAF, the most common molecular genetic changes in these neoplasms. A subset of cells characterized by abundant eosinophilic cytoplasm (EC), discrete cell borders, and bland nuclei was identified in all (100%) 25 BRAF-mutated APSTs but in only 5 (10%) of 46 APSTs without BRAF mutations (P<0.0001). Among the 18 LGSCs, EC cells were found in only 2, and both contained BRAF mutations. The EC cells were present admixed with cuboidal and columnar cells lining the papillae and appeared to be budding from the surface, resulting in individual cells and clusters of detached cells "floating" above the papillae. Immunohistochemistry showed that the EC cells always expressed p16, a senescence-associated marker, and had a significantly lower Ki-67 labeling index than adjacent cuboidal and columnar cells (P=0.02). In vitro studies supported the interpretation that these cells were undergoing senescence, as the same morphologic features could be reproduced in cultured epithelial cells by ectopic expression of BRAF(V600E). Senescence was further established by markers such as SA-β-gal staining, expression of p16 and p21, and reduction in DNA synthesis. In conclusion, this study sheds light on the pathogenesis of this unique group of ovarian tumors by showing that BRAF mutation is associated with cellular senescence and the presence of a specific cell type characterized by abundant EC. This "oncogene-induced senescence" phenotype may represent a mechanism that impedes progression of APSTs to LGSC.

Wilson MA, Morrissette JJ, McGettigan S, et al.
What you are missing could matter: a rare, complex BRAF mutation affecting codons 599, 600, and 601 uncovered by next generation sequencing.
Cancer Genet. 2014; 207(6):272-5 [PubMed] Related Publications
Testing for somatic mutations in tumor samples is becoming standard practice in a number of tumor types where targeted therapies are available. Since clinical care is dependent on the identification of the presence or absence of specific mutations, it is important that these mutations be identified consistently and accurately. Here we identify in a patient with metastatic melanoma a novel, complex mutation involving BRAF c.1798A>T (p.T599T), c.1799T>A (p.V600E), and c.1803A>T (p.K601N) that was identified by next generation sequencing but not by standard testing methods. The patient was started on a combination therapy inhibiting both BRAF and MEK, and demonstrated a dramatic clinical response. This case highlights the need for improved methods of mutation testing in tumor samples and exposes a pitfall in allele-specific testing methods that can be overcome using next generation sequencing.

Koopmans AE, Ober K, Dubbink HJ, et al.
Prevalence and implications of TERT promoter mutation in uveal and conjunctival melanoma and in benign and premalignant conjunctival melanocytic lesions.
Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014; 55(9):6024-30 [PubMed] Related Publications
PURPOSE: Hot-spot mutations in the promoter region of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT promoter mutations) occur frequently in cutaneous and conjunctival melanoma and are exceedingly rare in uveal melanoma. No information is available on the presence of these mutations in the conjunctival melanocytic precursor lesion primary acquired melanosis (PAM). We tested a cohort of uveal and conjunctival melanomas as well as conjunctival benign and premalignant melanocytic lesions for TERT promoter mutations in order to elucidate the role of these mutations in tumor progression.
METHODS: TERT promoter mutation analysis on fresh tumor DNA and DNA from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens was performed by SNaPshot analysis in 102 uveal melanomas, 39 conjunctival melanomas, 26 PAM with atypia, 14 PAM without atypia, and 56 conjunctival nevi.
RESULTS: Mutations of the TERT promoter were not identified in conjunctival nevi or PAM without atypia, but were detected in 2/25 (8%) of PAM with atypia and 16/39 (41%) of conjunctival melanomas. A single TERT promoter mutation was detected in 102 uveal melanomas (1%).
CONCLUSIONS: We present the second documented case of TERT promoter mutation in uveal melanoma. In comparison with other types of melanoma, TERT promoter mutations occur at extremely low frequency in uveal melanoma. TERT promoter mutations are frequent in conjunctival melanoma and occur at lower frequency in PAM with atypia but were not detected in benign conjunctival melanocytic lesions. These findings favor a pathogenetic tumor progression role for TERT promoter mutations in conjunctival melanocytic lesions.

Ooki A, Akagi K, Yatsuoka T, et al.
Combined microsatellite instability and BRAF gene status as biomarkers for adjuvant chemotherapy in stage III colorectal cancer.
J Surg Oncol. 2014; 110(8):982-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The clinical relevance of combined microsatellite instability (MSI) and BRAF status for adjuvant treatment in stage III colorectal cancer (CRC) remains elusive.
METHODS: In 405 patients with curatively resected stage III CRC, the prognostic value of combined MSI and BRAF status was assessed in four groups, as follows: high-levels of microsatellite instability (MSI-H) and BRAF-wild type, MSI-H and BRAF-mutation, microsatellite stable (MSS) and BRAF-wild type, and MSS and BRAF-mutation.
RESULTS: Combined MSI and BRAF status provided significant prognostic stratification of disease-free survival (DFS), and was independently associated with worse DFS. The MSI-H and BRAF-wild type group had similar outcomes to stage II CRC patients, despite no benefit from 5-FU monotherapy. Further, patients in the MSS and BRAF-wild type group with stage IIIA CRC had favorable outcomes to 5-FU monotherapy, similar to those with stage II CRC. In contrast, 5-FU monotherapy was insufficient among patients in the MSS and BRAF-wild type group with stage IIIB or IIIC CRC or patients in the MSS and BRAF-mutation group with stage III CRC.
CONCLUSIONS: The combination of MSI and BRAF status serves as both a prognostic and predictive marker and may provide much-needed guidance during the planning of therapeutic strategies.

McFadden DG, Dias-Santagata D, Sadow PM, et al.
Identification of oncogenic mutations and gene fusions in the follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014; 99(11):E2457-62 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/11/2015 Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The diagnosis of the follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (FVPTC) is increasingly common. Recent studies have suggested that FVPTC is heterogeneous and comprises multiple tumor types with distinct biological behaviors and underlying genetics.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this work was to identify the prevalence of mutations and gene fusions in known oncogenes in a panel representative of the common spectrum of FVPTC diagnosed at an academic medical center and correlate the clinical and pathological features obtained at the initial diagnosis with the tumor genotype.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed SNaPshot genotyping on a panel of 129 FVPTCs of ≥1 cm for 90 point mutations or small deletions in known oncogenes and tumor suppressors and identified gene fusions using an anchored multiplex PCR assay targeting a panel of rearranged oncogenes.
RESULTS: We identified a mutation or gene fusion in 70% (89 of 127) of cases. Mutations targeting the RAS family of oncogenes were the most frequently observed class of alterations, present in 36% (46 of 127) of cases, followed by BRAF mutation, present in 30% (38 of 127). We also detected oncogenic rearrangements not previously associated with FVPTC, including TFG-ALK and CREB3L2-PPARγ. BRAF mutation was significantly associated with unencapsulated tumor status.
CONCLUSIONS: These data support the hypothesis that FVPTC is composed of distinct biological entities, with one class being identified by BRAF mutation and support the use of clinical genotyping assays that detect a diverse array of rearrangements involving ALK and PPARγ. Additional studies are necessary to identify genetic drivers in the 30% of FVPTCs with no known oncogenic alteration and to better predict behavior in tumors with known genotypes.

Wiland HO, Shadrach B, Allende D, et al.
Morphologic and molecular characterization of traditional serrated adenomas of the distal colon and rectum.
Am J Surg Pathol. 2014; 38(9):1290-7 [PubMed] Related Publications
Of the serrated polyps, the origin, morphologic features, molecular alterations, and natural history of traditional serrated adenomas (TSAs) are the least understood. Recent studies suggest that these polyps may arise from precursor lesions. The frequencies of KRAS and BRAF mutations vary between these studies, and only 1 small study has measured CpG island methylation using current markers of methylation. Mutations in GNAS, a gene commonly mutated in colorectal villous adenomas, have not been fully evaluated in TSAs. Finally, the expression of annexin A10 (ANXA10), a recently discovered marker of sessile serrated adenomas/polyps, has not been studied in these polyps. To further characterize these polyps, 5 gastrointestinal pathologists reviewed 55 left-sided polyps diagnosed as TSA at a single institution. Pathologists assessed various histologic features including cytoplasmic eosinophilia, ectopic crypt foci, presence of conventional dysplasia, and presence of precursor serrated lesions. KRAS, BRAF, and GNAS mutational analysis was performed, as well as CpG island methylation and ANXA10 immunohistochemistry. Ectopic crypt foci were seen in 62% of TSAs. Precursor lesions were seen in 24% of the study polyps, most of which were hyperplastic polyps. KRAS and BRAF mutations were common and were present in 42% and 48% of polyps, respectively. GNAS mutations occurred in 8% of polyps, often in conjunction with a BRAF mutation. Unlike sessile serrated adenomas/polyps, TSAs rarely had diffuse expression of ANXA10. Importantly, BRAF-mutated TSAs had more widespread methylation of a 5-marker CpG island panel compared with KRAS-mutated polyps. However, ectopic crypt foci, a proposed defining feature of TSA, were not associated with any specific molecular alteration.

McDaniel AS, Zhai Y, Cho KR, et al.
HRAS mutations are frequent in inverted urothelial neoplasms.
Hum Pathol. 2014; 45(9):1957-65 [PubMed] Article available free on PMC after 01/03/2015 Related Publications
Inverted urothelial papilloma (IUP) is an uncommon neoplasm of the urinary bladder with distinct morphologic features. Studies regarding the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the etiology of IUP have provided conflicting evidence of HPV infection. In addition, little is known regarding the molecular alterations present in IUP or other urothelial neoplasms, which might demonstrate inverted growth pattern like low-grade or high-grade urothelial carcinoma (UCA). Here, we evaluated for the presence of common driving somatic mutations and HPV within a cohort of IUPs, (n = 7) noninvasive low-grade papillary UCAs with inverted growth pattern (n = 5), and noninvasive high-grade papillary UCAs with inverted growth pattern (n = 8). HPV was not detected in any case of IUP or inverted UCA by either in situ hybridization or by polymerase chain reaction. Next-generation sequencing identified recurrent mutations in HRAS (Q61R) in 3 of 5 IUPs, described for the first time in this neoplasm. Additional mutations of Ras pathway members were detected including HRAS, KRAS, and BRAF. The presence of Ras pathway member mutations at a relatively high rate suggests this pathway may contribute to pathogenesis of inverted urothelial neoplasms. In addition, we did not find any evidence supporting a role for HPV in the etiology of IUP.

Molinari F, Signoroni S, Lampis A, et al.
BRAF mutation analysis is a valid tool to implement in Lynch syndrome diagnosis in patients classified according to the Bethesda guidelines.
Tumori. 2014 May-Jun; 100(3):315-20 [PubMed] Related Publications
AIMS AND BACKGROUND: Lynch syndrome (LS) is clinically defined by the Amsterdam criteria (AC) and by germline mutations in mismatch-repair (MMR) genes leading to microsatellite instability (MSI) at the molecular level. Patients who do not fulfil AC are considered suspected-Lynch according to the less stringent Bethesda guidelines (BG) and should be tested for MSI and MMR germline mutations. BRAF mutations have been proposed as a marker to exclude LS because they are generally absent in LS patients and present in sporadic colorectal cancer (sCRC) with MSI due to promoter hypermethylation of the MLH1 gene. Our aim was to verify whether BRAF mutations may improve the criteria to select patients for germline MMR mutation assessment.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: We analyzed 303 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded CRC samples including 174 sCRC, 28 patients fulfilling AC, and 101 suspected-Lynch patients fulfilling BG. We analyzed MSI and BRAF mutations in all CRC samples. MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6 germline mutations were investigated in MSI patients fulfilling AC or BG.
RESULTS: sCRC samples showed MSI in 20/174 (11%) cases. BRAF mutations were detected in 10/174 (6%) sCRC cases and were significantly correlated with MSI (P = 0.002). MSI was observed in 24/28 (86%) Amsterdam cases which were BRAF wild-type. MMR gene mutation was detected in 22/26 (85%) AC cases, all showing MSI. Suspected-Lynch cases carried MSI in 41/101 (40%) and BRAF mutations in 7/101 (7%) cases. MMR gene mutation was detected in 13/28 (46%) evaluable MSI patients of this group and only in cases characterized by a wild-type BRAF gene.
CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of BRAF mutations in CRC patients is not high but extremely correlated with MSI and risk categories as BG, whereas they are absent in LS patients. BRAF mutation detection can reduce the need for MMR gene analysis in a small (but not negligible) proportion of MSI patients (7%), with a positive impact on the financial and psychological costs of unnecessary tests.

Trietsch MD, Spaans VM, ter Haar NT, et al.
CDKN2A(p16) and HRAS are frequently mutated in vulvar squamous cell carcinoma.
Gynecol Oncol. 2014; 135(1):149-55 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Two etiologic pathways of vulvar cancer are known, a human papillomavirus (HPV)- and a TP53-associated route, respectively, but other genetic changes may also play a role. Studies on somatic mutations in vulvar cancer other than TP53 are limited in number and size. In this study, we investigated the prevalence of genetic mutations in 107 vulvar squamous cell carcinomas (VSCCs).
METHODS: A total of 107 paraffin-embedded tissue samples of primarily surgically treated VSCCs were tested for HPV infection and screened for mutations in 14 genes (BRAF, CDKN2A(p16), CTNNB1, FBXW7, FGFR2, FGFR3, FOXL2, HRAS, KRAS, NRAS, PIK3CA, PPP2R1A, PTEN, and TP53) using Sanger sequencing and mass spectrometry.
RESULTS: Mutations were detected in 7 genes. Of 107 VSCCs, 66 tumors (62%) contained at least one mutation (TP53=58, CDKN2A(p16)=14, HRAS=10, PIK3CA=7, PPP2R1A=3, KRAS=1, PTEN=1). Mutations occurred most frequently in HPV-negative samples. Five-year survival was significantly worse for patients with a mutation (47% vs 59%, P=.035), with a large effect from patients carrying HRAS-mutations.
CONCLUSION: Somatic mutations were detected in 62% of VSCCs. As expected, HPV infection and TP53-mutations play a key role in the development of VSCC, but CDKN2A(p16), HRAS, and PIK3CA-mutations were also frequently seen in HPV-negative patients. Patients with somatic mutations, especially HRAS-mutations, have a significantly worse prognosis than patients lacking these changes, which could be of importance for the development of targeted therapy.

Sutton KM, Crinnion LA, Wallace D, et al.
Detection of somatic mutations in tumors using unaligned clonal sequencing data.
Lab Invest. 2014; 94(10):1173-83 [PubMed] Related Publications
Most cancers arise and evolve as a consequence of somatic mutations. These mutations influence tumor behavior and clinical outcome. Consequently, there is considerable interest in identifying somatic variants within specific genes (such as BRAF, KRAS and EGFR) so that chemotherapy can be tailored to the patient's tumor genotype rather than using a generic treatment based on histological diagnosis alone. Owing to the heterogeneous nature of tumors, a somatic mutation may be present in only a subset of cells, necessitating the use of quantitative techniques to detect rare variants. The highly quantitative nature of next-generation sequencing (NGS), together with the ability to multiplex numerous samples, makes NGS an attractive choice with which to screen for somatic variants. However, the large volumes of sequence data present significant difficulties when applying NGS for the detection of somatic mutations. To alleviate this, we have developed methodologies including a set of data analysis programs, which allow the rapid screening of multiple formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded samples for the presence of specified somatic variants using unaligned Illumina NGS data.

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