Scientific article
Open access

The first comprehensive genomic characterization of rectal squamous cell carcinoma

Publication date2022-11-11
First online date2022-11-11

Background: Rectal cancers represent 35% of colorectal cancers; 90% are adenocarcinomas, while squamous cell carcinoma accounts for 0.3% of them. Given its rarity, little is known concerning its pathogenesis, molecular profile and therapeutic management. The current treatment trend is to treat rectal squamous cell carcinoma by analogy to anal squamous cell carcinoma with definitive chemo-radiotherapy, setting aside surgery in case of local recurrence.

Methods: We performed an in-depth genomic analysis (next-generation sequencing, copy number variation, and human papilloma virus characterization) on 10 rectal squamous cell carcinoma samples and compared them in silico to those of anal squamous cell carcinoma and rectal adenocarcinoma.

Results: Rectal squamous cell carcinoma shows 100% HPV positivity. It has a mutational (PIK3CA, PTEN, TP53, ATM, BCL6, SOX2) and copy number variation profile (3p, 10p, 10q, 16q deletion and 1q, 3q, 5p, 8q, 20p gain) similar to anal squamous cell carcinoma. PI3K/Akt/mTOR is the most commonly affected signaling pathway similarly to anal squamous cell carcinoma. Most commonly gained or lost genes seen in rectal adenocarcinoma (FLT3, CDX2, GNAS, BCL2, SMAD4, MALT1) are not found in rectal squamous cell carcinoma.

Conclusion: This study presents the first comprehensive genomic characterization of rectal squamous cell carcinoma. We confirm the existence of this rare histology and its molecular similarity with anal squamous cell carcinoma. This molecular proximity confirms the adequacy of therapeutic management based on histology and not localization, suggesting that rectal squamous cell carcinoma should be treated like anal squamous cell carcinoma and not as a rectal adenocarcinoma.

  • Anal squamous cell carcinoma
  • Human Papilloma Virus
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Rectal adenocarcinoma
  • Rectal squamous cell carcinoma
Citation (ISO format)
ASTARAS, Christoforos et al. The first comprehensive genomic characterization of rectal squamous cell carcinoma. In: Journal of gastroenterology, 2022. doi: 10.1007/s00535-022-01937-w
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ISSN of the journal0944-1174

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