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Yuanliang Li, Yiying Guo, Zixuan Cheng, Chao Tian, Yingying Chen, Ruao Chen, Fuhuan Yu, Yanfen Shi, Fei Su, Shuhua Zhao, Zhizheng Wang, Jie Luo, and Huangying Tan

The genetic characteristics of rectal neuroendocrine tumors (R-NETs) were poorly understood. Depicting the genetic characteristics may provide a biological basis for prognosis prediction and novel treatment development. Tissues of 18 R-NET patients were analyzed using whole-exome sequencing. The median tumor mutation burden (TMB) and microsatellite instability (MSI) were 1.15 Muts/MB (range, 0.03-23.28) and 0.36 (range, 0.00-10.97) respectively. Genes involved in P53 signaling, PI3K-AKT signaling, DNA damage repair, WNT signaling, etc. were frequently altered. Higher TMB (P = 0.078), higher CNV (P = 0.110), somatic mutation of CCDC168 (P = 0.049), HMCN1 (P = 0.040), MYO10 (P = 0.007), and amplification of ZC3H13 (P < 0.001) were associated with shorter OS. Potentially targetable gene alterations (PTGAs) were seen in 72% of the patients. FGFR1 amplification (22%) was the most common PTGA followed by BARD1 and BRCA2 mutation (each 17%). As for gene variations associated with the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade (ICB), FAT1 alteration (39%) and PTEN depletion (28%) were commonly observed. In conclusion, frequently altered oncogenic pathways might contribute to the development and progression of R-NETs. Gene alterations significantly associated with prognosis might be potential novel targets. Targeted therapy might be a promising strategy as targetable alterations were prevalent in R-NETs. FAT1 alteration and PTEN depletion might be the main genetic alterations influencing the response to ICB besides overall low TMB and MSI in R-NETs.