Cancer Research

Computational identification of preneoplastic cells displaying high stemness and risk of cancer progression

Publication Date May 10, 2022


Evidence points towards the differentiation state of cells as a marker of cancer risk and progression. Measuring the differentiation state of single cells in a preneoplastic population could thus enable novel strategies for early detection and risk prediction. Recent maps of somatic mutagenesis in normal tissues from young healthy individuals have revealed cancer driver mutations, indicating that these do not correlate well with differentiation state and that other molecular events also contribute to cancer development. We hypothesized that the differentiation state of single cells can be measured by estimating the regulatory activity of the transcription factors (TFs) that control differentiation within that cell lineage. To this end, we present a novel computational method called CancerStemID that estimates a stemness index of cells from single-cell RNA-Seq data. CancerStemID is validated in two human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cohorts, demonstrating how it can identify undifferentiated preneoplastic cells whose transcriptomic state is overrepresented in invasive cancer. Spatial transcriptomics and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing demonstrated that differentiation activity of tissue-specific TFs was decreased in cancer cells compared to the basal cell-of-origin layer and established that differentiation state correlated with differential DNA methylation at the promoters of these TFs, independently of underlying NOTCH1 and TP53 mutations. The findings were replicated in a mouse model of ESCC development, and...

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Differentiation State Of Cells
Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Human Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Preneoplastic Cells
Risk Of Cancer Progression
Marker Of Cancer Risk
Strategies For Early Detection
Differentiation State
Single-cell RNA-Seq Data
Transcriptomic State

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