Molecular classification of tumour clonality is currently not evaluated in multiple invasive breast carcinomas, despite evidence suggesting common clonal origins. There is no consensus about which type of data (e.g. copy number, mutation, histology) and especially which statistical method is most suitable to distinguish clonal recurrences from independent primary tumours.
Thirty-seven invasive breast tumour pairs were stratified according to laterality and time interval between the diagnoses of the two tumours. In a multi-omics approach, tumour clonality was analysed by integrating clinical characteristics, DNA copy number, DNA methylation, gene expression microarray, RNA sequencing, and SNP genotyping data. Different statistical methods, e.g. the diagnostic similarity index (SI), were used to classify the tumours as clonally related recurrences or independent primary tumours.
The SI and hierarchical clustering showed similar tendencies and the highest concordance with the other methods. Concordant evidence for tumour clonality was found in 46% (17/37) of patients. Notably, no association was found between the current clinical guidelines and molecular tumour features.
A more accurate classification of clonal relatedness between multiple breast tumours may help to mitigate treatment failure and relapse by integrating tumour-associated molecular features, clinical parameters, and statistical methods. Guidelines need to be defined with exact thresholds to standardize clonality testing in a routine diagnostic setting.