Research ArticleCANCER

Matching cell lines with cancer type and subtype of origin via mutational, epigenomic, and transcriptomic patterns

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Science Advances  01 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 27, eaba1862
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1862


Cell lines are commonly used as cancer models. The tissue of origin provides context for understanding biological mechanisms and predicting therapy response. We therefore systematically examined whether cancer cell lines exhibit features matching the presumed cancer type of origin. Gene expression and DNA methylation classifiers trained on ~9000 tumors identified 35 (of 614 examined) cell lines that better matched a different tissue or cell type than the one originally assigned. Mutational patterns further supported most reassignments. For instance, cell lines identified as originating from the skin often exhibited a UV mutational signature. We cataloged 366 “golden set” cell lines in which transcriptomic and epigenomic profiles strongly resemble the cancer type of origin, further proposing their assignments to subtypes. Accounting for the uncertain tissue of origin in cell line panels can change the interpretation of drug screening and genetic screening data, revealing previously unknown genomic determinants of sensitivity or resistance.

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