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Open Access Research article

Potential pitfalls in MitoChip detected tumor-specific somatic mutations: a call for caution when interpreting patient data

Malliya Gounder Palanichamy12 and Ya-Ping Zhang12

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resources, Yunnan University, 2 North Green Lake Street, Kunming 650091, China

2 State Key Laboratory of Genetic resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, China

BMC Cancer 2010, 10:597  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-597

Published: 30 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Several investigators have employed high throughput mitochondrial sequencing array (MitoChip) in clinical studies to search mtDNA for markers linked to cancers. In consequence, a host of somatic mtDNA mutations have been identified as linked to different types of cancers. However, closer examination of these data show that there are a number of potential pitfalls in the detection tumor-specific somatic mutations in clinical case studies, thus urging caution in the interpretation of mtDNA data to the patients. This study examined mitochondrial sequence variants demonstrated in cancer patients, and assessed the reliability of using detected patterns of polymorphisms in the early diagnosis of cancer.

Methods

Published entire mitochondrial genomes from head and neck, adenoid cystic carcinoma, sessile serrated adenoma, and lung primary tumor from clinical patients were examined in a phylogenetic context and compared with known, naturally occurring mutations which characterize different populations.

Results

The phylogenetic linkage analysis of whole arrays of mtDNA mutations from patient cancerous and non-cancerous tissue confirmed that artificial recombination events occurred in studies of head and neck, adenoid cystic carcinoma, sessile serrated adenoma, and lung primary tumor. Our phylogenetic analysis of these tumor and control leukocyte mtDNA haplotype sequences shows clear cut evidence of mixed ancestries found in single individuals.

Conclusions

Our study makes two prescriptions: both in the clinical situation and in research 1. more care should be taken in maintaining sample identity and 2. analysis should always be undertaken with respect to all the data available and within an evolutionary framework to eliminate artifacts and mix-ups.