Plasma ctDNA is a tumor tissue surrogate and enables clinical-genomic stratification of metastatic bladder cancer

Nat Commun. 2021 Jan 8;12(1):184. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-20493-6.


Molecular stratification can improve the management of advanced cancers, but requires relevant tumor samples. Metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) is poised to benefit given a recent expansion of treatment options and its high genomic heterogeneity. We profile minimally-invasive plasma circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) samples from 104 mUC patients, and compare to same-patient tumor tissue obtained during invasive surgery. Patient ctDNA abundance is independently prognostic for overall survival in patients initiating first-line systemic therapy. Importantly, ctDNA analysis reproduces the somatic driver genome as described from tissue-based cohorts. Furthermore, mutation concordance between ctDNA and matched tumor tissue is 83.4%, enabling benchmarking of proposed clinical biomarkers. While 90% of mutations are identified across serial ctDNA samples, concordance for serial tumor tissue is significantly lower. Overall, our exploratory analysis demonstrates that genomic profiling of ctDNA in mUC is reliable and practical, and mitigates against disease undersampling inherent to studying archival primary tumor foci. We urge the incorporation of cell-free DNA profiling into molecularly-guided clinical trials for mUC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / genetics
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / blood*
  • Female
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Plasma*
  • Prognosis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Urinary Bladder
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / blood*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum Group D Protein / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum Group D Protein
  • ERCC2 protein, human

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