A Veerakumarasivam, LD Goldstein, K Saeb-Parsy, HE Scott, A Warren, NP Thorne, IG Mills, A Venkitaraman, DE Neal, JD Kelly
Invasive urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC) is characterized by increased chromosomal instability and follows an aggressive clinical course in contrast to non-invasive disease. To identify molecular processes that confer and maintain an aggressive malignant phenotype, we used a high-throughput genome-wide approach to interrogate a cohort of high and low clinical risk UCC tumors. Differential expression analyses highlighted cohesive dysregulation of critical genes involved in the G(2)/M checkpoint in aggressive UCC. Hierarchical clustering based on DNA Damage Response (DDR) genes separated tumors according to a pre-defined clinical risk phenotype. Using array-comparative genomic hybridization, we confirmed that the DDR was disrupted in tumors displaying high genomic instability. We identified DNA copy number gains at 20q13.2-q13.3 (AURKA locus) and determined that overexpression of AURKA accompanied dysregulation of DDR genes in high risk tumors. We postulated that DDR-deficient UCC tumors are advantaged by a selective pressure for AURKA associated override of M phase barriers and confirmed this in an independent tissue microarray series. This mechanism that enables cancer cells to maintain an aggressive phenotype forms a rationale for targeting AURKA as a therapeutic strategy in advanced stage UCC.