Background: Analysis of circulating tumor nucleic acids in plasma of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) patients is the most widespread and documented form of "liquid biopsy" and provides real-time information on the molecular profile of the tumor without an invasive tissue biopsy.
Methods: Liquid biopsy analysis was requested by the referral physician in 121 NSCLC patients at diagnosis and was performed using a sensitive Next Generation Sequencing assay. Additionally, a comparative analysis of NSCLC patients at relapse following EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKIs) treatment was performed in 50 patients by both the cobas and NGS platforms.
Results: At least one mutation was identified in almost 49% of the cases by the NGS approach in NSCLC patients analyzed at diagnosis. In 36 cases with paired tissue available a high concordance of 86.11% was observed for clinically relevant mutations, with a Positive Predictive Value (PPV) of 88.89%. Furthermore, a concordance rate of 82% between cobas and the NGS approach for the EGFR sensitizing mutations (in exons 18, 19, 21) was observed in patients with acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs, while this concordance was 94% for the p.T790M mutation, with NGS being able to detect this mutation in three 3 additional patients.
Conclusions: This study indicates the feasibility of circulating tumor nucleic acids (ctNA) analysis as a tumor biopsy surrogate in clinical practice for NSCLC personalized treatment decision making. The use of new sensitive NGS techniques can reliably detect tumor-derived mutations in liquid biopsy and provide clinically relevant information both before and after targeted treatment in patients with NSCLC. Thus, it could aid physicians in treatment decision making in clinical practice.