BackgroundThe aim of this study was to investigate the clinical value of liquid biopsy as a primary source for variant analysis in lung cancer. In addition, we sought to characterize liquid biopsy variants and to correlate mutational load to clinical data.
MethodsCirculating cell-free DNA was extracted from plasma from patients with lung cancer (n = 60) and controls with benign lung disease (n = 16). Variant analysis was performed using the AVENIO ctDNA Surveillance kit and the results were correlated to clinical and variant analysis data from tumor tissue or cytology retrieved from clinical routine diagnostics.
ResultsThere were significantly more variants detected in lung cancer cases compared to controls (p = 0.011), but no difference between the histological subgroups of lung cancer was found (p = 0.465). Furthermore, significantly more variants were detected in patients with stage IIIb-IV disease compared to patients with stage I-IIIa (median 7 vs 4, p = 0.017). Plasma cfDNA mutational load was significantly associated with overall survival (p = 0.010). The association persisted when adjusted for stage and ECOG performance status (HR: 3.64, 95% CI 1.37-9.67, p = 0.009). Agreement between tumor and plasma samples significantly differed with stage; patients with stage IIIb-IV disease showed agreement in 88.2% of the cases with clinically relevant variants, compared to zero cases in stage I-IIIa (p = 0.004). Furthermore, one variant in EGFR, two in KRAS, and one in BRAF were detected in plasma but not in tumor samples.
ConclusionThis study concludes that in the vast majority of advanced NSCLC patients a reliable variant analysis can be performed using liquid biopsy from plasma. Furthermore, we found that the number of variants in plasma is associated with prognosis, possibly indicating a strategy for closer follow up on this crucial patient group.