Circulating tumor cells for comprehensive and multiregional non-invasive genetic characterization of multiple myeloma

Leukemia. 2020 Nov;34(11):3007-3018. doi: 10.1038/s41375-020-0883-0. Epub 2020 Jun 1.


Multiple myeloma (MM) patients undergo repetitive bone marrow (BM) aspirates for genetic characterization. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are detectable in peripheral blood (PB) of virtually all MM cases and are prognostic, but their applicability for noninvasive screening has been poorly investigated. Here, we used next-generation flow (NGF) cytometry to isolate matched CTCs and BM tumor cells from 53 patients and compared their genetic profile. In eight cases, tumor cells from extramedullary (EM) plasmacytomas were also sorted and whole-exome sequencing was performed in the three spatially distributed tumor samples. CTCs were detectable by NGF in the PB of all patients with MM. Based on the cancer cell fraction of clonal and subclonal mutations, we found that ~22% of CTCs egressed from a BM (or EM) site distant from the matched BM aspirate. Concordance between BM tumor cells and CTCs was high for chromosome arm-level copy number alterations (≥95%) though not for translocations (39%). All high-risk genetic abnormalities except one t(4;14) were detected in CTCs whenever present in BM tumor cells. Noteworthy, ≥82% mutations present in BM and EM clones were detectable in CTCs. Altogether, these results support CTCs for noninvasive risk-stratification of MM patients based on their numbers and genetic profile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Liquid Biopsy
  • Male
  • Multiple Myeloma / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Myeloma / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • Biomarkers, Tumor