The KRAS-Variant Is Associated with Risk of Developing Double Primary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
A germline microRNA binding site-disrupting variant, the KRAS-variant (rs61764370), is associated with an increased risk of developing several cancers. Because this variant is most strongly associated with ovarian cancer risk in patients from hereditary breast and ovarian families (HBOC), and with the risk of premenopausal triple negative breast cancer, we evaluated the association of the KRAS-variant with women with personal histories of both breast and ovarian cancer, referred to as double primary patients.
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - The KRAS-Variant Is Associated with Risk of Developing Double Primary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
The KRAS-Variant Is Associated with Risk of Developing
Double Primary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Robert Pilarski1*, Divya A. Patel2, Jeffrey Weitzel3, Terri McVeigh4, Jemima J. Dorairaj4,
Helen M. Heneghan4, Nicola Miller4, Joanne B. Weidhaas5, Michael J. Kerin4, Megan McKenna6,
Xifeng Wu7, Michelle Hildebrandt7, Daniel Zelterman8, Sharon Sand3, Lee P. Shulman9
1 The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Internal Medicine, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America, 2 Department of Obstetrics,
Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America, 3 Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, City of Hope, Duarte,
California, United States of America, 4 Discipline of Surgery, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, 5 Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale University, New
Haven, Connecticut, United States of America, 6 Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America, 7 Department of Epidemiology, The
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, United States of America, 8 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University, New Haven,
Connecticut, United States of America, 9 Division of Clinical Genetics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
Purpose: A germline microRNA binding site-disrupting variant, the KRAS-variant (rs61764370), is associated with an
increased risk of developing several cancers. Because this variant is most strongly associated with ovarian cancer risk in
patients from hereditary breast and ovarian families (HBOC), and with the risk of premenopausal triple negative breast
cancer, we evaluated the association of the KRAS-variant with women with personal histories of both breast and ovarian
cancer, referred to as double primary patients.
Experimental Design: Germline DNA from double primary patients was tested for the KRAS-variant (n=232). Confirmation
of pathologic diagnoses, age of diagnoses, interval between ovarian cancer diagnosis and sample collection, additional
cancer diagnoses, and family history were obtained when available. All patients were tested for deleterious BRCA mutations.
Results: The KRAS-variant was significantly enriched in uninformative (BRCA negative) double primary patients, being found
in 39% of patients accrued within two years of their ovarian cancer diagnosis. Furthermore, the KRAS-variant was found in
35% of uninformative double primary patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer post-menopausally, and was significantly
associated with uninformative double primary patients with a positive family history. The KRAS-variant was also significantly
enriched in uninformative patients who developed more then two primary cancers, being found in 48% of women with two
breast primaries plus ovarian cancer or with triple primary cancers.
Conclusions: These findings further validate the importance of the KRAS-variant in breast and ovarian cancer risk, and
support the association of this variant as a genetic marker for HBOC families previously considered uninformative.
Citation: Pilarski R, Patel DA, Weitzel J, McVeigh T, Dorairaj JJ, et al. (2012) The KRAS-Variant Is Associated with Risk of Developing Double Primary Breast and
Ovarian Cancer. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37891. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037891
Editor: Syed A. Aziz, Health Canada, Canada
Received March 20, 2012; Accepted April 26, 2012; Published May 25, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Pilarski et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The collection of cases from City of Hope was supported in part by award #1RC4CA153828 from the United States National Cancer Institute (PI:
Weitzel). Cases from The Ohio State University were obtained in part from the Stefanie Spielman Breast Cancer Tissue Bank. The authors thank the National Breast
Cancer Research Institute that funds the Galway Biobank and researchers. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to
publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have read the journal’s policy and Dr. Weidhaas has the following conflicts: She has patented the KRAS-variant through Yale
University. This patent covers the discovery of the KRAS-variant and testing the KRAS-variant that is discussed in this application. This marker has been licensed to
a company that she has co-founded. Dr. Weidhaas is not employed by this company, but is a consultant. The company has developed the KRAS-variant as a test.
The Irish cohort was supported partially from a commercial source, the Galway Biobank. These things do not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLoS ONE
policies on sharing data and materials. The rest of the authors have no conflicts.
* E-mail: Robert.Pilarski@osumc.edu
Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome is an
inherited cancer-susceptibility syndrome marked by an increased
risk of developing both ovarian cancer and breast cancer .
Families generally considered as having HBOC syndrome are
those with multiple family members that have one of these cancers,
especially at young ages, or an individual with a cancer in both
organs, a ‘‘double primary’’ patient. While this is a relatively rare
presentation, a substantial number of women develop both breast
and ovarian primaries over their lifetime. While BRCA1 and
BRCA2 are strongly associated with HBOC syndrome , a large
number of HBOC families and women with double primary
cancer do not have detectable genetic mutations (herein referred
to as ‘‘uninformative’’ patients).
The chances of identifying a mutation causative for HBOC
increase when testing individuals diagnosed with double breast/
ovarian primaries [3–5]. However, a recent report suggests that
the rates of BRCA mutations are not higher in a patient with a
double primary without a family history than that for isolated first
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org 1 May 2012 | Volume 7 | Issue 5 | e37891
degree relative pairs with single primaries (14% versus 17% with
mutations, respectively) . This supports the importance of
family history even in patients with double primary cancers.
Although BRCA mutations were found in 49% of double primary
patients in this recent analysis, it should be noted that this indicates
that over half of double primary patients do not have a known
genetic cause for their disease. This is consistent with other reports
of these patients [3,5].
Many women diagnosed with premenopausal breast cancer
undergo testing for BRCA mutations, and many do this to gain
information on their future ovarian cancer risk [3,6]. For these
women this may be the most important role of genetic testing, as
positive testing could allow prevention or early detection of
ovarian cancer . Furthermore, current evidence suggests that
women with breast cancer who are negative for BRCA mutations
are not at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer in the
absence of a significant family history of ovarian cancer .
Previously, there have not been additional genetic markers
associated with risk of disease in both the breast and the ovary
besides BRCA1 and BRCA2. However, a functional germline
variant in the 39UTR of the KRAS oncogene (rs61764370) has
been recently identified and reported to be associated with
increased risk of both invasive epithelial ovarian cancer  and
breast cancer  in clinically well-annotated cohorts. The
association of the KRAS-variant with ovarian cancer was most
significant for uninformative women from HBOC families, and
the association with breast cancer was significant for premeno-pausal
women with triple negative breast cancer, also often
indicative of an HBOC family.
The goal of this study was to determine the association of the
KRAS-variant with women with double primary breast and ovarian
cancer, to further validate the association of this variant with
HBOC families. Findings here support the importance of the
KRAS-variant in uninformative HBOC families as well as in
predicting the risk of multiple primary cancers in women.
All patients in this study were consented and enrolled on
institution protocols for DNA collection by written consent.
Institution review boards and ethic committees that approved this
study were City of Hope, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer
Center, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center,
Yale University, Ohio State University, Northwestern University,
Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and National University of
Patients from eight separate institutions (City of Hope,
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Yale University, Ohio State
University, Northwestern University, Cancer Center of Santa
Barbara and National University of Ireland) were recruited under
standard individual institution approved IRB protocols for DNA
sample collection (total n=232). Double primary patients from
Yale University were prospectively collected for this study. Each
patient had pathologically documented double primary cancer -
breast cancer and invasive epithelial ovarian cancer. For a
patient’s breast cancer diagnosis, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS),
invasive lobular or invasive ductal cancers were eligible for study
inclusion. For a patient’s ovarian cancer diagnosis, epithelial
ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer or primary peritoneal
cancers were eligible for study inclusion. All patients had clinical
testing for BRCA mutations by sequencing, and uninformative
patients had no sequencing variants. Deletion/duplication testing
was not done in most subjects.
In the analysis, samples from 75 patients with pathogenic
BRCA1 mutations, 33 patients with pathogenic BRCA2 mutations,
and 124 uninformative (i.e., negative for BRCA mutations) patients
were analyzed for the KRAS-variant. Patient demographics
including ethnicity, age at breast and ovarian cancer diagnosis,
additional cancer diagnoses, time between ovarian cancer
diagnosis and sample collection, and family history were recorded
at each institution for most patients when available (all BRCA1 and
BRCA2, 92 uninformative, n = 200). An additional cohort of
uninformative patients with only known diagnosis and detailed
family history (from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
were included to better study the impact of family history on
KRAS-variant status in women with double primary cancers
(n=32), for the total cohort size of 232. Postmenopausal status was
estimated as age 52 years or older for all patients.
Germline DNA from each patient was isolated from blood or
saliva and stored using standard protocols. Germline DNA was
assayed for the KRAS-variant using a Taqman custom designed
assay (ABI, CA) with relevant positive and negative cell line DNA
controls. Samples were analyzed at the individual parent
institution (n= 95), at Yale University in a blinded fashion
(n = 64), or at Mira Dx, Inc. (New Haven, CT), a Clinical
Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) certified laboratory
(n = 73).
The prevalence of the KRAS-variant was examined in relation to
ethnicity, BRCA mutation status, time between ovarian cancer
diagnosis and recruitment, age of ovarian cancer onset, family
history and multiple primary cancers. Small frequency distribu-tions
were compared using Fisher’s exact test and comparisons
with population rates (n.6800) using a binomial model. Logistic
regression models were used to examine the association between
subject age and the KRAS-variant. P-values less than.05 were
considered statistically significant. All the analyses were performed
using SAS software (Version 9.2) or in R (Version 2.12).
Prevalence of the KRAS-variant in Double Primary
Patients by Ethnicity
Overall, the KRAS-variant was found in 21.0% of the entire
cohort of double primary breast and ovarian cancer patients with
full clinical information (n = 42/200). This is significantly higher
than the population prevalence of ,15% observed in non-cancerous
Caucasian control populations (p= 0.01 binomial
test)[9–13]. Because the baseline prevalence of the KRAS-variant
varies across ethnic populations , and is highest in Caucasian
non-Hispanic populations, we examined the prevalence of the
Table 1. The KRAS-variant is significantly associated with
uninformative breast and ovarian cancer patients.
BRCA1 (n = 75) BRCA2 (n = 33)
(n = 92)
Prevalence 16.0% 18.2% 27.2% (p,0.001)
The KRAS-Variant Predicts Double Primary Cancer
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Table 2. The KRAS-variant is significantly more likely to be found in women tested within two years of their ovarian cancer
KRAS-variant in Caucasian non-Hispanic double primary patients
only, and found the prevalence of the KRAS-variant was slightly
higher in these women compared to the overall cohort (38/
163 = 23.3%, p = 0.002, binomial). The difference in prevalence of
the KRAS-variant between Caucasian non-Hispanic, and non-
Caucasian or Hispanic women with double primary cancer was
not significant, however (p= 0.6), indicating that the KRAS-variant
is significantly associated with double primary cancer for women
of all ethnicities. Therefore all double primary patients, regardless
of ethnicity, were included in the additional analyses.
The Association of the KRAS-variant with BRCA Status
We evaluated the prevalence of the KRAS-variant in double
primary patients with full clinical information based on BRCA
mutation status: pathogenic BRCA1 mutations (n=75), pathogenic
BRCA2 mutations (n=33), or BRCA-negative (uninformative)
(n = 92). The KRAS-variant was not statistically significantly
elevated in women with pathogenic BRCA1 mutations (n =12/
75, 16.0%), or in women with pathogenic BRCA2 mutations
(n = 6/33, 18.2%) compared to population prevalence. In contrast
however, the prevalence of the KRAS-variant was significantly
enriched in uninformative double primary cancer patients
compared to population prevalence (25/92, 27.2%, p,0.001,
binomial) (Table 1).
Impact of Interval Between Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and
Patient Recruitment on KRAS-variant Prevalence in
Because the KRAS-variant predicts poor ovarian cancer specific
survival in uninformative patients , we investigated the
association of the prevalence of the KRAS-variant and time
between ovarian cancer diagnosis and study recruitment for
uninformative patients with available information (n = 82). First,
we found that the interval between ovarian cancer diagnosis and
sample collection was significantly different across the recruitment
centers, likely due to center referral patterns (p,0.001). The
overall prevalence of the KRAS-variant was 30.5% (n=25/82) in
uninformative patients with available information on interval
between diagnosis and recruitment. The prevalence of the KRAS-variant
was 38.5% (n =20/52) in patients recruited within two
years of their ovarian cancer diagnosis, which was significantly
higher than the prevalence in patients recruited more than 2 years
after their ovarian cancer diagnosis (16.7%, n=5/30, p,0.048 by
Exact test) (Table 2).
Timing of Ovarian Cancer Development in KRAS-variant
The majority of uninformative women in these studies
developed breast cancer before their ovarian cancer (74.7% of
all uninformative patients [n=65/87]). This was slightly less
common in KRAS-variant-positive uninformative patients (64%,
n=16/25) compared to KRAS-variant-negative uninformative
patients (79.0%, n=49/62), but this difference was not signifi-cant.
Because prior reports have found that the KRAS-variant is
rarely associated with premenopausal ovarian cancer (less then
52 years of age) [9,14], we next evaluated the association of the
KRAS-variant with age of ovarian cancer development in
uninformative double primary patients. We found that 88.0%
of KRAS-variant-positive uninformative patients developed ovar-ian
cancer postmenopausally (n=22/25), compared to only
66.1% of KRAS-variant-negative uninformative patients (n=41/
62), however this difference did not reach statistical significant
(p = 0.062). We additionally found a significant association of the
KRAS-variant with age of ovarian cancer diagnosis, with 34.9%
of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer postmenopausally
having the KRAS-variant (n=22/63), compared to only 12.5% of
women diagnosed with ovarian cancer premenopausally (n=3/
24). This association with older age of ovarian cancer onset in
KRAS-variant-positive uninformative patients was significant by
logistic regression analysis (p,0.007) (Table 3).
Association of the KRAS-variant with Family History in
As the association of double primary cancers and known genetic
mutations has been found to be enriched in the presence of a
positive family history of related cancers, we evaluated the
association of the prevalence of the KRAS-variant with family
history in uninformative patients. We added an additional cohort
of 32 uninformative double primary patients with a known family
history to the 44 uninformative patients with known family history
from our fully annotated cohort. In these 76 women with double
primary cancers, 24 had a positive family history and 52 had a
negative family history for breast and/or ovarian cancer in first
and/or second-degree relatives. The KRAS-variant was found in
29.2% (7/24) of women with a positive family history, which is a
,2 years from ovarian cancer
.2 years from ovarian cancer
Prevalence 30.5% 38.5% 16.7%
Table 3. The KRAS-variant is significantly associated with developing ovarian cancer post-menopausally compared to pre-menopausally.
Women with post-menopausal ovarian
Women with pre-menopausal ovarian
Prevalence 34.9% 12.5%
The KRAS-Variant Predicts Double Primary Cancer
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Table 4. The KRAS-variant is significantly associated with the risk of developing additional cancers beyond breast and ovarian
prevalence significantly higher than expected in the general
population (p,0.02). In contrast the KRAS-variant was not
significantly elevated in uninformative double primary patients
with a negative family history compared to the general population
prevalence, being found in 15.3% (8/52) of this population. The
difference between the prevalence of the KRAS-variant in women
with a positive versus negative family history was not significant
(p = 0.13).
Association of the KRAS-variant with Multiple Cancers in
Because the KRAS-variant has been found to be associated with
an increased risk for other cancers besides breast and ovarian
cancer [11,15] we tested the hypothesis that the KRAS-variant
would predict for an increased risk of developing additional
cancers in this double primary cohort, regardless of BRCA
mutation status. For 183 of the patients in our study where this
information was available, 79.2% (n = 145) had reported just the
two cancers (breast and ovarian), 12.0% (n =22) had two separate
primary breast cancers and also ovarian cancer, and 8.7% (n = 16)
had cancer in an additional organ outside of the breast and ovary
The KRAS-variant was found in 20.0% (n=29/145) of double
primary patients overall; 19.3% (11/57) of BRCA1 patients, 13.6%
(3/22) of BRCA2 patients and 22.7% (15/66) of uninformative
patients. The KRAS-variant was found in 22.7% (n=5/22) of
patients with two separate primary breast cancers and ovarian
cancer; 0% (0/12) of BRCA1 patients, 33.3% (1/3) of BRCA2
patients and 57.1% (4/7) of uninformative patients. Finally, the
KRAS-variant was found in 43.8% (n=7/16) of women with triple
primaries; 0% (0/1) of BRCA1 patients, 100% (1/1) of BRCA2
patients, and 42.9% (6/14) of uninformative patients. The KRAS-variant
predicts a significant increased risk of developing a third
independent cancer in all double primary patients (p,0.01), which
was largely due to increased risk for uninformative patients
(p,0.005) and also possibly BRCA2 patients (p,0.05). The KRAS-variant
also predicts a significantly increased risk of developing
more then two primary cancers in uninformative double primary
patients, being found in 47.6% (10/21) of uninformative patients
with more then two primary cancers compared to 22.7% (15/66)
of uninformative patients with just two primary cancers (p= 0.05)
Here we show that the KRAS-variant, a functional germline
miRNA-binding disrupting mutation that has previously been
shown to be associated with ovarian cancer, especially in HBOC
families , as well as with premenopausal triple negative breast
cancer , is also significantly enriched in women who develop
both breast and ovarian cancer with uninformative BRCA
sequencing results (Table 5). The KRAS-variant was most
enriched in women who were tested within two years of their
ovarian cancer diagnosis, likely reflecting the increased risk of
interim death of KRAS-variant positive ovarian cancer patients
with longer accrual times . In addition, the KRAS-variant was
significantly associated with BRCA-uninformative patients who
developed ovarian cancer post-menopausally (as estimated by age
.52 years), and with BRCA-uninformative patients with a positive
family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Finally, the KRAS-variant
was significantly associated with an increased risk of
developing a third, independent cancer in addition to breast and
ovarian cancer, being found in 43.8% of patients with triple
primary cancers, most of whom had uninformative BRCA testing.
It is possible that a small proportion of cases considered BRCA-uninformative
may harbor a large rearrangement mutation,
known to account for about 10% of deleterious BRCA1 mutations
[16,17] given the lack of screening in many cases. However, this
would not have altered the significance of the primary observa-tions
in this report. These findings further confirm that the KRAS-variant
is indeed a bona fide marker for uninformative HBOC
families, and also highlights some similarities as well as some
differences between KRAS-variant patients and BRCA mutant
Because the great majority of KRAS-variant double primary
patients in this study developed breast cancer before their ovarian
cancer, it appears that there could have been an opportunity for
ovarian cancer prevention through chemoprevention (oral con-traceptives)
and/or prophylactic oophorectomy for these women.
In addition, the association of the KRAS-variant primarily with
postmenopausal ovarian cancer suggests that oophorectomy might
be reasonable delayed in these patients compared to recommen-dations
for women with BRCA mutations, where oophorectomy is
recommended at 35 or upon completion of childbearing.
Currently, women with premenopausal breast cancer who are
uninformative for BRCA mutations without a family history of
ovarian cancer are told that they have no increased risk of ovarian
cancer, based on a study of hereditary breast cancer families .
Our findings here indicate that women with the KRAS-variant are
also at an increased risk of subsequently developing ovarian
cancer, and should be managed accordingly.
Breast and ovarian cancer
(n = 145)
Two breasts and ovarian
Triple primary cancer
Prevalence overall 20.0% 22.7% 43.8%
Prevalence in uninformative 22.7% (15/66) 57.1% (4/7) 42.9% (6/14)
Table 5. Prevalence of the KRAS-variant in uninformative
YES NO p-value
Accrued within 2 years of
ovarian cancer diagnosis
38.5% 16.7% 0.048
Developed ovarian cancer
34.9% 12.5% 0.007
Developed more than two
47.6% 22.7% 0.05
The KRAS-Variant Predicts Double Primary Cancer
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The finding that the prevalence of the KRAS-variant is
significantly higher in women tested within two years of ovarian
cancer diagnosis likely reflects the fact that these patients have
worse ovarian cancer specific survival and a higher risk for interim
death over time . In addition, the significant association of the
KRAS-variant with early onset triple negative breast cancer ,
the most deadly form of breast cancer, would also have likely
diluted the prevalence of the KRAS-variant in these cohorts, as
these women would be more likely to die of their breast cancer
before development of ovarian cancer. Regardless, the prevalence
of the KRAS-variant remained significantly enriched in these
patients even when studying the group as a whole. Importantly
though these findings highlight the necessity of carefully consid-ering
study design when analyzing markers that predict aggressive
tumor biology, such as the KRAS-variant. Erroneous conclusions
will otherwise be reached when using prevalence as a measure of
the association with cancer risk if the populations studied have
long ascertainment times. Such disparities in these and other areas
of study cohort and design likely explain the failure to find the
association between the KRAS-variant and sporadic ovarian cancer
risk in a prior publication . However, it is also important to
highlight that the association found in this study is again strongest
in women with a personal and family history most consistent with
The finding that the KRAS-variant is associated with uninfor-mative
women with double primary cancer is important, as it
further confirms that 1) the KRAS-variant is associated with
The KRAS-Variant Predicts Double Primary Cancer
uninformative HBOC families, 2) appropriate intervention for
patients with the KRAS-variant who develop breast cancer may
allow prevention of future ovarian cancer and 3) women with
cancer that have the KRAS-variant may benefit from screening to
detect additional cancer development at its earliest stages. Overall,
this work continues to support the importance of the KRAS-variant
broadly in cancer biology, and specifically in women’s health.
We thank Ken Offit for contribution of his patient samples. We thank the
Yale Genetic Counseling core for identifying patients and collecting
samples. We thank Karen Lu for identifying and collecting samples from
patients at MDACC. We thank Mira Dx for running samples on their
CLIA assay. The collection of cases from City of Hope was supported in
part by award #1RC4CA153828 from the United States National Cancer
Institute (PI: Weitzel). Cases from The Ohio State University were
obtained in part from the Stefanie Spielman Breast Cancer Tissue Bank.
We thank the National Breast Cancer Research Institute that funds the
Galway Biobank and researchers.
Conceived and designed the experiments: RP JBW JW LS. Performed the
experiments: TM JD HH NM MH SS. Analyzed the data: DP DZ.
Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: RP JW MK XW LS MM.
Wrote the paper: RP DP JW TM JD HH NM JBW MK MM XW MH
DZ SS LS.
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