Functional linkage of gene fusions to cancer cell fitness assessed by pharmacological and CRISPR-Cas9 screening
Picco G., Chen ED., Alonso LG., Behan FM., Gonçalves E., Bignell G., Matchan A., Fu B., Banerjee R., Anderson E., Butler A., Benes CH., McDermott U., Dow D., Iorio F., Stronach E., Yang F., Yusa K., Saez-Rodriguez J., Garnett MJ.
© 2019, The Author(s). Many gene fusions are reported in tumours and for most their role remains unknown. As fusions are used for diagnostic and prognostic purposes, and are targets for treatment, it is crucial to assess their function in cancer. To systematically investigate the role of fusions in tumour cell fitness, we utilized RNA-sequencing data from 1011 human cancer cell lines to functionally link 8354 fusion events with genomic data, sensitivity to >350 anti-cancer drugs and CRISPR-Cas9 loss-of-fitness effects. Established clinically-relevant fusions were identified. Overall, detection of functional fusions was rare, including those involving cancer driver genes, suggesting that many fusions are dispensable for tumour fitness. Therapeutically actionable fusions involving RAF1, BRD4 and ROS1 were verified in new histologies. In addition, recurrent YAP1-MAML2 fusions were identified as activators of Hippo-pathway signaling in multiple cancer types. Our approach discriminates functional fusions, identifying new drivers of carcinogenesis and fusions that could have clinical implications.