(1) Background: Early predictive markers to track treatment responses are needed for advanced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) patients. We examined the prognostication and risk stratification role of liquid biopsy serial monitoring for this deadly cancer. (2) Methods: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) were isolated from 60 ESCC patients treated by chemotherapy (CT) at five serial timepoints: baseline (CTC1/cfDNA1), CT pre-cycle III (CTC2/cfDNA2), CT post-cycle IV, end of CT and relapse. (3) Results: In 45/57 ESCC patients with evaluable CTC counts at CT pre-cycle III, positive CTC2 (≥3 CTCs) is independently associated with response at interim reassessment and progression-free survival (PFS) in multivariate analysis. In 42/57 ESCC patients with changes of CTC1/CTC2 and cfDNA1/cfDNA2, patients categorized into four risk groups based on the number of favorable and unfavorable changes of CTC1/CTC2 and cfDNA1/cfDNA2, were independently associated with overall survival (OS) by multivariate analysis. (4) Conclusions: CTC counts at pre-cycle III are independently associated with response at interim reassessment and PFS. Combined changes of CTC counts and cfDNA levels from baseline to pre-cycle III are independently associated with OS. Longitudinal liquid biopsy serial monitoring provides complementary information for prediction and prognosis for CT responses in advanced ESCC.
Keywords: CTC enumeration; advanced ESCC; cell-free DNA; chemotherapy; circulating tumor cells; early prediction; liquid biopsy; longitudinal real-time monitoring; non-invasive biomarker; prognosis.