Mutational signatures have been described in the literature and a few centers have implemented pipelines for clinical reporting.


To describe the performance of a mutational signature caller with clinical samples sequenced on a targeted next-generation sequencing panel with a small genomic footprint.


One thousand six hundred eighty-two (n = 1682) clinical samples were analyzed for the presence of mutational signatures using deconstructSigs on variant calls with at least 20 variant reads.


Signature 10 (associated with POLe mutation) achieved separation of cases and controls in hypermutated samples. Signatures 4 (associated with tobacco smoking) and 7 (associated with ultraviolet radiation) as an indicator of pulmonary or cutaneous primary sites showed moderate sensitivity and high specificity at optimal cutpoints. Mutational signatures in malignancies with unknown primaries were somewhat consistent with the clinically suspected primary site, with an apparent dose-response relationship between the number of variants analyzed and the ability of mutational signature analysis to correctly suggest a primary site.


Mutational signatures represent an opportunity for orthogonal testing of primary site, which may be particularly useful in supporting cutaneous or pulmonary sites in poorly differentiated neoplasms. Tobacco smoking, ultraviolet radiation, and POLe mutational signatures are the most appropriate signatures for implementation. Even relatively small numbers of variants appear capable of supporting a clinically suspected primary.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. See text for hyperlink.

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

Supplementary data