BACKGROUND: The evaluation of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) from clinical blood samples, liquid biopsy, offers several diagnostic advantages compared with traditional tissue biopsy, such as shorter processing time, reduced patient risk and the opportunity to assess tumour heterogeneity. The historically poor sensitivity of ctDNA testing, has restricted its integration into routine clinical practice for non-metastatic disease. The early kinetics of ctDNA during radical radiotherapy for localised NSCLC have not been described with ultra-deep next generation sequencing previously.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Patients with CT/PET-staged locally advanced, NSCLC prospectively consented to undergo serial venepuncture during the first week of radical radiotherapy alone. All patients received 55Gy in 20 fractions. Plasma samples were processed using the commercially available Roche AVENIO Expanded kit (Roche Sequencing Solutions, Pleasanton, CA, US) which targets 77 genes.
RESULTS: Tumour-specific mutations were found in all patients (1 in 3 patients; 2 in 1 patient, and 3 in 1 patient). The variant allele frequency of these mutations ranged from 0.05-3.35%. In 2 patients there was a transient increase in ctDNA levels at the 72 h timepoint compared to baseline. In all patients there was a non-significant decrease in ctDNA levels at the 7-day timepoint in comparison to baseline (p = 0.4627).
CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates the feasibility of applying ctDNA-optimised NGS protocols through specified time-points in a small homogenous cohort of patients with localised lung cancer treated with radiotherapy. Studies are required to assess ctDNA kinetics as a predictive biomarker in radiotherapy. Priming tumours for liquid biopsy using radiation warrants further exploration.