Clinical Implications of Plasma-Based Genotyping With the Delivery of Personalized Therapy in Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

JAMA Oncol. 2019 Feb 1;5(2):173-180. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.4305.


Importance: The clinical implications of adding plasma-based circulating tumor DNA next-generation sequencing (NGS) to tissue NGS for targetable mutation detection in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have not been formally assessed.

Objective: To determine whether plasma NGS testing was associated with improved mutation detection and enhanced delivery of personalized therapy in a real-world clinical setting.

Design, setting, and participants: This prospective cohort study enrolled 323 patients with metastatic NSCLC who had plasma testing ordered as part of routine clinical management. Plasma NGS was performed using a 73-gene commercial platform. Patients were enrolled at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from April 1, 2016, through January 2, 2018. The database was locked for follow-up and analyses on January 2, 2018, with a median follow-up of 7 months (range, 1-21 months).

Main outcomes and measures: The number of patients with targetable alterations detected with plasma and tissue NGS; the association between the allele fractions (AFs) of mutations detected in tissue and plasma; and the association of response rate with the plasma AF of the targeted mutations.

Results: Among the 323 patients with NSCLC (60.1% female; median age, 65 years [range, 33-93 years]), therapeutically targetable mutations were detected in EGFR, ALK, MET, BRCA1, ROS1, RET, ERBB2, or BRAF for 113 (35.0%) overall. Ninety-four patients (29.1%) had plasma testing only at the discretion of the treating physician or patient preference. Among the 94 patients with plasma testing alone, 31 (33.0%) had a therapeutically targetable mutation detected, thus obviating the need for an invasive biopsy. Among the remaining 229 patients who had concurrent plasma and tissue NGS or were unable to have tissue NGS, a therapeutically targetable mutation was detected in tissue alone for 47 patients (20.5%), whereas the addition of plasma testing increased this number to 82 (35.8%). Thirty-six of 42 patients (85.7%) who received a targeted therapy based on the plasma result achieved a complete or a partial response or stable disease. The plasma-based targeted mutation AF had no correlation with depth of Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors response (r = -0.121; P = .45).

Conclusions and relevance: Integration of plasma NGS testing into the routine management of stage IV NSCLC demonstrates a marked increase of the detection of therapeutically targetable mutations and improved delivery of molecularly guided therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / blood
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • DNA Mutational Analysis*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / blood
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Patient Selection
  • Phenotype
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies


  • Biomarkers, Tumor