Background: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common cause of cancer-death due to early metastatic spread, in many cases primarily to the brain. Organ-specific pattern of spread of disease might be driven by the activity of a specific signaling pathway within the primary tumors. We aimed to identify an expression signature of genes and the relevant signaling associated with the development of brain metastasis (BM) after surgical resection of NSCLC. Methods: Rapidly frozen NSCLC surgical specimens were procured from tumor banks. RNA was extracted and analyzed by RNA-sequencing (Illumina HiSeq 2500). Clinical parameters and gene expression were examined for differentiating between patients with BM, patients with metastases to sites other than brain, and patients who did not develop metastatic disease at a clinically significant follow up. Principal component analysis and pathway enrichments studies were done. Results: A total of 91 patients were included in this study, 32 of which developed BM. Stage of disease at diagnosis (P=0.004) and level of differentiation (P=0.007) were significantly different between BM and control group. We identified a set of 22 genes which correlated specifically with BM, and not with metastasis to other sites. This set achieved 93.4% accuracy (95% CI: 86.2–97.5%), 96.6% specificity and 87.5% sensitivity of correctly identifying BM patients in a leave-one-out internal validation analysis. The oxidative phosphorylation pathway was strongly correlated with BM risk. Conclusions: Expression level of a small set of genes from primary tumors was found to predict BM development, distinctly from metastasis to other organs. These genes and the correlated oxidative phosphorylation pathway require further validation as potentially clinically useful predictors of BM and possibly as novel therapeutic targets for BM prevention.
- Gene expression signature
- Metastasis site prediction
- Organ-specific metastatic spread
- Oxidative phosphorylation