Use of liquid biopsies to monitor disease progression in a sarcoma patient: a case report

BMC Cancer. 2017 Jan 6;17(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s12885-016-2992-8.


Background: Many patients experience local recurrence or metastases after receiving potentially curative treatment, and early detection of these events is important for disease control. Recent technological advances make it possible to use blood plasma containing circulating cell-free tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a liquid biopsy. In this case report we show how serial liquid biopsies can be used to monitor the disease course and detect disease recurrence in a sarcoma patient.

Case presentation: A 55-year-old male presented with a rapidly growing, painful palpable mass in the left groin region, and a biopsy revealed a high-grade malignant spindle cell sarcoma. No metastases were detected on radiologic imaging scans. Using targeted resequencing with a custom 900 cancer gene panel, eight somatic mutations among them KRAS and NF1, were identified in the primary tumour. Targeted resequencing of plasma cell-free DNA (ctDNA) collected before and after surgery and at disease progression confirmed the presence of six of eight mutations at all three time points. The ctDNA level, estimated from the somatic allele frequencies of these six mutations, was high in plasma taken at the time of surgery, at levels similar to the primary tumour. Detection of low levels of ctDNA three days after surgery indicated persistent microscopic disease. Repeated radiologic imaging six weeks postoperatively showed widespread metastatic disease in the lungs, skeleton and the pelvic region. At this time point there was a dramatic increase in the ctDNA level, reflecting the disease progression of the patient. The patient had an unusually aggressive cancer, and succumbed to the disease 13 weeks after surgery.

Conclusions: This case report demonstrated that targeted resequencing of ctDNA from longitudinal collected plasma can be used to monitor disease progression in a soft tissue sarcoma patient, including manifestation of metastatic disease. The ctDNA represented the genomic profile of the tumour, supporting clinical use of liquid biopsies to identify tumour-specific mutations as well as recurrent disease.

Keywords: Cancer; Case report; Circulating cell-free DNA; KRAS; NF1; ThunderBolts; ctDNA.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / blood*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Liquid Biopsy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Sarcoma / blood
  • Sarcoma / diagnosis*
  • Sarcoma / genetics


  • DNA