Importance: Understanding molecular mechanisms of response and resistance to anticancer therapies requires prospective patient follow-up and clinical and functional validation of both common and low-frequency mutations. We describe a whole-exome sequencing (WES) precision medicine trial focused on patients with advanced cancer.
Objective: To understand how WES data affect therapeutic decision making in patients with advanced cancer and to identify novel biomarkers of response.
Design, setting, and patients: Patients with metastatic and treatment-resistant cancer were prospectively enrolled at a single academic center for paired metastatic tumor and normal tissue WES during a 19-month period (February 2013 through September 2014). A comprehensive computational pipeline was used to detect point mutations, indels, and copy number alterations. Mutations were categorized as category 1, 2, or 3 on the basis of actionability; clinical reports were generated and discussed in precision tumor board. Patients were observed for 7 to 25 months for correlation of molecular information with clinical response.
Main outcomes and measures: Feasibility, use of WES for decision making, and identification of novel biomarkers.
Results: A total of 154 tumor-normal pairs from 97 patients with a range of metastatic cancers were sequenced, with a mean coverage of 95X and 16 somatic alterations detected per patient. In total, 16 mutations were category 1 (targeted therapy available), 98 were category 2 (biologically relevant), and 1474 were category 3 (unknown significance). Overall, WES provided informative results in 91 cases (94%), including alterations for which there is an approved drug, there are therapies in clinical or preclinical development, or they are considered drivers and potentially actionable (category 1-2); however, treatment was guided in only 5 patients (5%) on the basis of these recommendations because of access to clinical trials and/or off-label use of drugs. Among unexpected findings, a patient with prostate cancer with exceptional response to treatment was identified who harbored a somatic hemizygous deletion of the DNA repair gene FANCA and putative partial loss of function of the second allele through germline missense variant. Follow-up experiments established that loss of FANCA function was associated with platinum hypersensitivity both in vitro and in patient-derived xenografts, thus providing biologic rationale and functional evidence for his extreme clinical response.
Conclusions and relevance: The majority of advanced, treatment-resistant tumors across tumor types harbor biologically informative alterations. The establishment of a clinical trial for WES of metastatic tumors with prospective follow-up of patients can help identify candidate predictive biomarkers of response.