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Exploring genetic heterogeneity in cancer using high-throughput DNA and RNA sequencing

  • Fasterius, Erik
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2018
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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High-throughput sequencing (HTS) technology has revolutionised the biomedical sciences, where it is used to analyse the genetic makeup and gene expression patterns of both primary patient tissue samples and models cultivated in vitro. This makes it especially useful for research on cancer, a disease that is characterised by its deadliness and genetic heterogeneity. This inherent genetic variation is an important aspect that warrants exploration, and the depth and breadth that HTS possesses makes it well-suited to investigate this facet of cancer. The types of analyses that may be accomplished with HTS technologies are many, but they may be divided into two groups: those that analyse the DNA of the sample in question, and those that work on the RNA. While DNA-based methods give information regarding the genetic landscape of the sample, RNA-based analyses yield data regarding gene expression patterns; both of these methods have already been used to investigate the heterogeneity present in cancer. While RNA-based methods are traditionally used exclusively for expression analyses, the data they yield may also be utilised to investigate the genetic variation present in the samples. This type of RNA-based analysis is seldom performed, however, and valuable information is thus ignored. The aim of this thesis is the development and application of DNA- and RNA- based HTS methods for analysing genetic heterogeneity within the context of cancer. The present investigation demonstrates that not only may RNA-based sequencing be used to successfully differentiate different in vitro cancer models through their genetic makeup, but that this may also be done for primary patient data. A pipeline for these types of analyses is established and evaluated, showing it to be both robust to several technical parameters as well as possess a broad scope of analytical possibilities. Genetic variation within cancer models in public databases are evaluated and demonstrated to affect gene expression in several cases. Both inter- and intra-patient genetic heterogeneity is shown using the established pipeline, in addition to demonstrating that cancerous cells are more heterogeneous than their normal neighbours. Finally, two bioinformatic open source software packages are presented. The results presented herein demonstrate that genetic analyses using RNA-based methods represent excellent complements to already existing DNA-based techniques, and further increase the already large scope of how HTS technologies may be utilised. / <p>QC 20180906</p>

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