PURPOSE: There is a need for adjuvant/neo-adjuvant treatment strategies to prevent metastatic relapse in soft tissue sarcoma (STS). Tumor hypoxia is associated with a high-risk of metastasis and is potentially targetable. This study aimed to derive and validate a hypoxia mRNA signature for STS for future biomarker-driven trials of hypoxia targeted therapy.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: RNA sequencing was used to identify seed genes induced by hypoxia in seven STS cell lines. Primary tumors in a training cohort (French training) were clustered into two phenotypes by seed gene expression and a de novo hypoxia signature derived. Prognostic significance of the de novo signature was evaluated in the training and two independent validation (French validation and The Cancer Genome Atlas) cohorts.
RESULTS: 37 genes were up-regulated by hypoxia in all seven cell lines, and a 24-gene signature was derived. The high-hypoxia phenotype defined by the signature was enriched for well-established hypoxia genes reported in the literature. The signature was prognostic in univariable analysis, and in multivariable analysis in the training (n=183, HR 2.16, P=0.0054) and two independent validation (n=127, HR 3.06, P=0.0019; n=258, HR 2.05, P=0.0098) cohorts. Combining information from the hypoxia signature and a genome instability signature significantly improved prognostication. Transcriptomic analyses showed high-hypoxia tumors had more genome instability and lower immune scores.
CONCLUSION: A 24-gene STS-specific hypoxia signature may be useful for prognostication and identifying patients for hypoxia-targeted therapy in clinical trials.