Utility of ctDNA to support patient selection for early phase clinical trials: the TARGET study

Nat Med. 2019 May;25(5):738-743. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0380-z. Epub 2019 Apr 22.


Next-generation sequencing (NGS) of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) supports blood-based genomic profiling but is not yet routinely implemented in the setting of a phase I trials clinic. TARGET is a molecular profiling program with the primary aim to match patients with a broad range of advanced cancers to early phase clinical trials on the basis of analysis of both somatic mutations and copy number alterations (CNA) across a 641 cancer-associated-gene panel in a single ctDNA assay. For the first 100 TARGET patients, ctDNA data showed good concordance with matched tumor and results were turned round within a clinically acceptable timeframe for Molecular Tumor Board (MTB) review. When a 2.5% variant allele frequency (VAF) threshold was applied, actionable mutations were identified in 41 of 100 patients, and 11 of these patients received a matched therapy. These data support the application of ctDNA in this early phase trial setting where broad genomic profiling of contemporaneous tumor material enhances patient stratification to novel therapies and provides a practical template for bringing routinely applied blood-based analyses to the clinic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / blood*
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / genetics*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Patient Selection
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Circulating Tumor DNA