Non-coding cancer driver candidates identified with a sample- and position-specific model of the somatic mutation rate

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Non-coding mutations may drive cancer development. Statistical detection of non-coding driver regions is challenged by a varying mutation rate and uncertainty of functional impact. Here we develop a statistically-founded non-coding driver-detection method, ncdDetect, which includes sample-specific mutational signatures, long-range mutation rate variation, and position-specific impact measures. Using ncdDetect, we screened non-coding regulatory regions of protein-coding genes across a pan-cancer set of whole-genomes (n=505), which top-ranked known drivers and identified new candidates. For individual candidates, presence of non-coding mutations associate with altered expression or decreased patient survival across an independent pan-cancer sample set (n=5,454). This includes an antigen-presenting gene (CD1A), where 5'UTR mutations correlate significantly with decreased survival in melanoma. Additionally, mutations in a base-excision-repair gene (SMUG1) correlate with a C-to-T mutational-signature. Overall, we find that a rich model of mutational heterogeneity facilitates non-coding driver identification and integrative analysis points to candidates of potential clinical relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2017

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  • Journal Article

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