Awards & Achievements

2016 Best Student Publication Award

Congratulations to Huang Kie Kyon, PhD student from Prof Patrick Tan’s group, for winning the Best Student Publication Award. This competition, held internally, calls for the submission of abstracts by CSI Singapore’s graduate students. Out of all the submitted abstracts, his outstanding publication in Gut was selected by the CSI Graduate Programme Academic Committee and Director of CSI Singapore.


SETD2 Histone Modifier Loss in Aggressive GI Stromal Tumours

BACKGROUND: GI stromal tumours (GISTs) are clinically heterogenous exhibiting varying degrees of disease aggressiveness in individual patients.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to identify genetic alterations associated with high-risk GIST, explore their molecular consequences, and test their utility as prognostic markers.

DESIGNS: Exome sequencing of 18 GISTs was performed (9 patients with high-risk/metastatic and 5 patients with low/intermediate-risk), corresponding to 11 primary and 7 metastatic tumours. Candidate alterations were validated by prevalence screening in an independent patient cohort (n=120). Functional consequences ofSETD2 mutations were investigated in primary tissues and cell lines. Transcriptomic profiles for 8 GISTs (4SETD2 mutated, 4 SETD2 wild type) and DNA methylation profiles for 22 GISTs (10 SETD2 mutated, 12SETD2 wild type) were analysed. Statistical associations between molecular, clinicopathological factors, and relapse-free survival were determined.

RESULTS: High-risk GISTs harboured increased numbers of somatic mutations compared with low-risk GISTs (25.2 mutations/high-risk cases vs 6.8 mutations/low-risk cases; two sample t test p=3.1×10-5). Somatic alterations in the SETD2 histone modifier gene occurred in 3 out of 9 high-risk/metastatic cases but no low/intermediate-risk cases. Prevalence screening identified additional SETD2 mutations in 7 out of 80 high-risk/metastatic cases but no low/intermediate-risk cases (n=29). Combined, the frequency of SETD2 mutations was 11.2% (10/89) and 0% (0/34) in high-risk and low-risk GISTs respectively. SETD2 mutant GISTs exhibited decreased H3K36me3 expression while SETD2 silencing promoted DNA damage in GIST-T1 cells. In gastric GISTs, SETD2 mutations were associated with overexpression of HOXC cluster genes and a DNA methylation signature of hypomethylated heterochromatin. Gastric GISTs with SETD2 mutations, or GISTs with hypomethylated heterochromatin, showed significantly shorter relapse-free survival on univariate analysis (log rank p=4.1×10-5).

CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that SETD2 is a novel GIST tumour suppressor gene associated with disease progression. Assessing SETD2 genetic status and SETD2-associated epigenomic phenotypes may guide risk stratification and provide insights into mechanisms of GIST clinical aggressiveness.