Some germ cell tumors (GCTs) in men develop into hematologic malignancies; however, the clonal origins of such malignancies remain unknown. In this issue of the JCI, Taylor, Donoghue, et al. unravel the clonal relationship between primary mediastinal nonseminomas (PMNs) and hematologic somatic-type malignancies (HSTMs). Whole-exome sequencing was used to construct phylogenetic trees of the PMNs and the ensuing HSTM clones. HSTMs were derived from multiple distinct clones not detected within the PMNs. Clones from PMNs and HSTMs shared a common precursor, arguably an embryonal carcinoma cell resulting from a reprogrammed primordial germ cell from the thymus. Mutational and copy number variation analysis of a large cohort of patients with PMNs also demonstrated a high prevalence of TP53 mutations not found in testicular nonseminomas. These data likely explain why patients with PMNs are frequently resistant to platinum-based chemotherapy and provide TP53 mutations as potential targets.
J. Wolter Oosterhuis, Leendert H.J. Looijenga