Improved Gene Fusion Detection in Childhood Cancer Diagnostics Using RNA Sequencing

Jayne Y. Hehir-Kwa, Marco J. Koudijs, Eugene T. P. Verwiel, Lennart A. Kester, Marc van Tuil, Eric Strengman, Arjan Buijs, Mariëtte E. G. Kranendonk, Laura S. Hiemcke-Jiwa, Valerie de Haas, Ellen van de Geer, Wendy de Leng, Jasper van der Lugt, Philip Lijnzaad, Frank C. P. Holstege, Patrick Kemmeren, Bastiaan B. J. Tops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE Gene fusions play a significant role in cancer etiology, making their detection crucial for accurate diagnosis, prognosis, and determining therapeutic targets. Current diagnostic methods largely focus on either targeted or low-resolution genome-wide techniques, which may be unable to capture rare events or both fusion partners. We investigate if RNA sequencing can overcome current limitations with traditional diagnostic techniques to identify gene fusion events. METHODS We first performed RNA sequencing on a validation cohort of 24 samples with a known gene fusion event, after which a prospective pan-pediatric cancer cohort (n = 244) was tested by RNA sequencing in parallel to existing diagnostic procedures. This cohort included hematologic malignancies, tumors of the CNS, solid tumors, and suspected neoplastic samples. All samples were processed in the routine diagnostic workflow and analyzed for gene fusions using standard-of-care methods and RNA sequencing. RESULTS We identified a clinically relevant gene fusion in 83 of 244 cases in the prospective cohort. Sixty fusions were detected by both routine diagnostic techniques and RNA sequencing, and one fusion was detected only in routine diagnostics, but an additional 24 fusions were detected solely by RNA sequencing. RNA sequencing, therefore, increased the diagnostic yield by 38%-39%. In addition, RNA sequencing identified both gene partners involved in the gene fusion, in contrast to most routine techniques. For two patients, the newly identified fusion by RNA sequencing resulted in treatment with targeted agents. CONCLUSION We show that RNA sequencing is sufficiently robust for gene fusion detection in routine diagnostics of childhood cancers and can make a difference in treatment decisions. JCO Precis Oncol 6:e2000504.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJCO precision oncology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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