Prospective Genotyping of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Clinical Implications of Next-Generation Sequencing for Matching Patients to Targeted and Immune Therapies

Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Apr 1;25(7):2116-2126. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-2293. Epub 2018 Oct 29.


Purpose: Prior molecular profiling of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has identified actionable findings that may have a role in guiding therapeutic decision-making and clinical trial enrollment. We implemented prospective next-generation sequencing (NGS) in the clinic to determine whether such analyses provide predictive and/or prognostic information for HCC patients treated with contemporary systemic therapies.

Experimental design: Matched tumor/normal DNA from patients with HCC (N = 127) were analyzed using a hybridization capture-based NGS assay designed to target 341 or more cancer-associated genes. Demographic and treatment data were prospectively collected with the goal of correlating treatment outcomes and drug response with molecular profiles.

Results: WNT/β-catenin pathway (45%) and TP53 (33%) alterations were frequent and represented mutually exclusive molecular subsets. In sorafenib-treated patients (n = 81), oncogenic PI3K-mTOR pathway alterations were associated with lower disease control rates (DCR, 8.3% vs. 40.2%), shorter median progression-free survival (PFS; 1.9 vs. 5.3 months), and shorter median overall survival (OS; 10.4 vs. 17.9 months). For patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (n = 31), activating alteration WNT/β-catenin signaling were associated with lower DCR (0% vs. 53%), shorter median PFS (2.0 vs. 7.4 months), and shorter median OS (9.1 vs. 15.2 months). Twenty-four percent of patients harbored potentially actionable alterations including TSC1/2 (8.5%) inactivating/truncating mutations, FGF19 (6.3%) and MET (1.5%) amplifications, and IDH1 missense mutations (<1%). Six percent of patients treated with systemic therapy were matched to targeted therapeutics.

Conclusions: Linking NGS to routine clinical care has the potential to identify those patients with HCC likely to benefit from standard systemic therapies and can be used in an investigational context to match patients to genome-directed targeted therapies.See related commentary by Pinyol et al., p. 2021.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Prospective Studies