Correlation of genomic alterations between tumor tissue and circulating tumor DNA by next-generation sequencing

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2018 Nov;144(11):2167-2175. doi: 10.1007/s00432-018-2747-9. Epub 2018 Sep 10.


Purpose: Analysis of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) offers an unbiased and noninvasive way to assess the genetic profiles of tumors. This study aimed to analyze mutations in ctDNA and their correlation with tissue mutations in patients with a variety of cancers.

Methods: We included 21 cancer patients treated with surgical resection for whom we collected paired tissue and plasma samples. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) of all exons was performed in a targeted human comprehensive cancer panel consisting of 275 genes.

Results: Six patients had at least one mutation that was concordant between tissue and ctDNA sequencing. Among all mutations (n = 35) detected by tissue and blood sequencing, 20% (n = 7) were concordant at the gene level. Tissue and ctDNA sequencing identified driver mutations in 66.67% and 47.62% of the tested samples, respectively. Tissue and ctDNA NGS detected actionable alterations in 57.14% and 33.33% of patients, respectively. When somatic alterations identified by each test were combined, the total proportion of patients with actionable mutations increased to 71.43%. Moreover, variants of unknown significance that were judged likely pathogenic had a higher percentage in ctDNA exclusively. Across six representative genes (PIK3CA, CTNNB1, AKT1, KRAS, TP53, and MET), the sensitivity and specificity of detection using mutations in tissue sample as a reference were 25 and 96.74%, respectively.

Conclusions: This study indicates that tissue NGS and ctDNA NGS are complementary rather than exclusive approaches; these data support the idea that ctDNA is a promising tool to interrogate cancer genetics.

Keywords: Actionable mutations; CtDNA; Driver mutations; NGS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Circulating Tumor DNA