Somatic loss of heterozygosity (LOH) has been widely reported in breast cancer as a means of identifying putative tumor-suppressor genes. However, individual studies have rarely spanned more than a single chromosome, and the varying criteria used to declare LOH complicate efforts to formally differentiate regions of consistent versus sporadic (random) loss. We report here the compilation of an extensive database from 151 published LOH studies of breast cancer, with summary data from >15,000 tumors and primary allelotypes from >4,300 tumors. Allelic loss was evaluated at 1,168 marker loci, with large variation in the density of informative observations across the genome. Using studies in which primary allelotype information was available, we employed a likelihood-based approach with a formal chromosomal instability and selection model. The approach seeks direct evidence for preferential loss at each locus compared with nearby loci, accounts for heterogeneity across studies, and enables the direct comparison of candidate regions across the genome. Striking preferential loss was observed (in descending order of significance) in specific regions of chromosomes 7q, 16q, 13q, 17p, 8p, 21q, 3p, 18q, 2q, and 19p, as well as other regions, in many cases coinciding with previously identified candidate genes or known fragile sites. Many of these observations were not possible from any single LOH study, and our results suggest that many previously reported LOH results are not systematic or reproducible. Our approach provides a comparative framework for further investigation of regions exhibiting LOH and identifies broad genomic regions for which there exist few data.
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