Amplification of oncogenes is a frequent transforming event in cancer, however, the development of such alterations is partly understood yet. Dr. Carolina Rosswog and Dr. Christoph Bartenhagen from the Department of Experimental Pediatric Oncology, headed by Prof. Dr. Matthias Fischer, investigated the mechanism behind the evolution of complex genomic amplifications in cancer, which had been poorly understood before. During her EKF fellowship, Carolina Rosswog identified together with Christoph Bartenhagen, a type of amplification that they termed “seismic amplification”, which is characterized by multiple rearrangements and numerous genomic segments amplified at distinct levels. Seismic amplifications occur frequently in human cancer, affecting roughly 10% of the cases in a cohort of more than 2,700 tumors across 38 cancer types. The data provide strong evidence that seismic amplification is a frequent event in cancer and follows a common evolutionary path, which is based on a stepwise evolution involving an initial chromothripsis event and subsequent recombination of extrachromosomal circular DNAs.
Importantly, the data corroborate that seismic amplification defines a subgroup of highly complex genomic alterations that had not been covered by former categories of structural variations in cancer. The study therefore provides novel insights into the mechanisms of how human tumors acquire genomic amplifications as major drivers of oncogenic transformation - an important finding for the development of preventive measures and new treatment strategies.
Dr. Rosswog and Dr. Bartenhagen were honored with the “Kind-Philipp-Preis 2021”. The prize is annually announced by the Kind-Philipp Foundation and endowed with 10,000 € for the best scientific work on childhood cancer in German-speaking countries. The award ceremony took place during the 96th scientific meeting of the Society of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology (GPOH) in Frankfurt. The foundation promotes basic research for a better understanding of leukemia and childhood cancers.