UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A case of intraplacental gestational choriocarcinoma; characterised by the methylation pattern of the early placenta and an absence of driver mutations Savage, Philip; Monk, David; Hernandez Mora, Jose R.; van der Westhuizen, Nick; Rauw, Jennifer; Tinker, Anna; Robinson, Wendy P.; Song, Qianqian; Seckl, Michael J.; Fisher, Rosemary A.


Background: Gestational choriocarcinoma is a rare malignancy believed to arise from the trophoblast cells of the placenta. Despite the frequently aggressive clinical nature, choriocarcinoma has been routinely curable with cytotoxic chemotherapy for over 50 years. To date little is known regarding the route to oncogenesis in this malignancy. Methods: In a case of intraplacental choriocarcinoma, we have performed detailed genetic studies including microsatellite analysis, whole genome sequencing (WGS) and methylation analysis of the tumour and surrounding mature placenta. Results: The results of the WGS sequencing indicated a very low level of mutation and the absence of any driver mutations or oncogene activity in the tumour. The methylation analysis identified a distinctly different profile in the tumour from that of the mature placenta. Comparison with a panel of reference methylation profiles from different stages of placental development indicated that the tumour segregated with the first trimester samples. Conclusions: These findings suggest that gestational choriocarcinoma is likely to arise as a result of aberrations of methylation during development, rather than from DNA mutations. The results support the hypothesis that gestational choriocarcinoma arises from a normally transient early trophoblast cell. At this point in development this cell naturally has a phenotype of rapid division, tissue invasion and sensitivity to DNA damaging chemotherapy that is very similar to that of the mature choriocarcinoma cell.

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