Differential mutation spectrum and immune landscape in African Americans versus whites: A possible determinant to health disparity in head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer Lett. 2020 Jul 29:S0304-3835(20)30386-4. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2020.07.029. Online ahead of print.


African Americans (AA) with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) have a worse disease prognosis than White patients despite adjusting for socio-economic factors, suggesting the potential biological contribution. Therefore, we investigated the genomic and immunological components that drive the differential tumor biology among race. We utilized the cancer genome atlas and cancer digital archive of HNSCC patients (1992-2013) for our study. We found that AA patients with HNSCC had a higher

frequency of mutation compared to Whites in the key driver genes-P53, FAT1, CASP8 and HRAS. AA tumors also exhibited lower intratumoral infiltration of effector immune cells (CD8+, γδT, resting memory CD4+ and activated memory CD4+ T cells) with shorter survival than Whites. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering of differentially expressed genes demonstrated a distinct gene clusters between AA and White patients with unique signaling pathway enrichments. Connectivity map analysis identified drugs (Neratinib and Selumetinib) that target aberrant PI3K/RAS/MEK signaling and may target reduce racial disparity in therapy response.