Serial genomic analysis of endometrium supports the existence of histologically indistinct endometrial cancer precursors

Mitzi Aguilar, He Zhang, Musi Zhang, Brandi Cantarell, Subhransu S. Sahoo, Hao Dong Li, Ileana C. Cuevas, Jayanthi Lea, David S. Miller, Hao Chen, Wenxin Zheng, Jeffrey Gagan, Elena Lucas, Diego H. Castrillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The endometrium is unique as an accessible anatomic location that can be repeatedly biopsied and where diagnostic biopsies do not extirpate neoplastic lesions. We exploited these features to retrospectively characterize serial genomic alterations along the precancer/cancer continuum in individual women. Cases were selected based on (1) endometrial cancer diagnosis/hysterectomy and (2) preceding serial endometrial biopsies including for some patients an early biopsy before a precancer histologic diagnosis. A comprehensive panel was designed for endometrial cancer genes. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens for each cancer, preceding biopsies, and matched germline samples were subjected to barcoded high-throughput sequencing to identify mutations and track their origin and allelic frequency progression. In total, 92 samples from 21 patients were analyzed, providing an opportunity for new insights into early endometrial cancer progression. Definitive invasive endometrial cancers exhibited expected mutational spectra, and canonical driver mutations were detectable in preceding biopsies. Notably, ≥1 cancer mutations were detected prior to the histopathologic diagnosis of an endometrial precancer in the majority of patients. In 18/21 cases, ≥1 mutations were confirmed by abnormal protein levels or subcellular localization by immunohistochemistry, confirming genomic data and providing unique views of histologic correlates. In 19 control endometria, mutation counts were lower, with a lack of canonical endometrial cancer hotspot mutations. Our study documents the existence of endometrial lesions that are histologically indistinct but are bona fide endometrial cancer precursors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2021


  • DNA sequencing
  • atypical endometrial hyperplasia/endometrioid intraepithelial neoplasia
  • endometrial cancer
  • endometrial precancer
  • mutation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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