Endometrial polyps (EMPs) are common exophytic masses associated with abnormal uterine bleeding and infertility. Unlike normal endometrium, which is cyclically shed, EMPs persist over ovulatory cycles and after the menopause. Despite their usual classification as benign entities, EMPs are paradoxically associated with endometrial carcinomas of diverse histologic subtypes, which frequently arise within EMPs. The etiology and potential origins of EMPs as clonally-derived neoplasms are uncertain, but previous investigations suggested that EMPs are neoplasms of stromal origin driven by recurring chromosomal rearrangements. To better define benign EMPs at the molecular genetic level, we analyzed individual EMPs from 31 women who underwent hysterectomy for benign indications. The 31 EMPs were subjected to comprehensive genomic profiling by exome sequencing of a large panel of tumor-related genes including oncogenes, tumor suppressors, and chromosomal translocation partners. There were no recurring chromosomal rearrangements, and copy-number analyses did not reveal evidence of significant chromosome-level events. Surprisingly, there was a high incidence of single nucleotide variants corresponding to classic oncogenic drivers (i.e., definitive cancer drivers). The spectrum of known oncogenic driver events matched that of endometrial cancers more closely than any other common cancer. Further analyses including laser-capture microdissection showed that these mutations were present in the epithelial compartment at low allelic frequencies. These results establish a link between EMPs and the acquisition of endometrial cancer driver mutations. Based on these findings, we propose a model where the association between EMPs and endometrial cancer is explained by the age-related accumulation of endometrial cancer drivers in a protected environment that—unlike normal endometrium—is not subject to cyclical shedding.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine