Genomic Analysis of Circulating Tumor DNA in 3,334 Patients with Advanced Prostate Cancer Identifies Targetable BRCA Alterations and AR Resistance Mechanisms

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Jun 1;27(11):3094-3105. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-4805. Epub 2021 Feb 8.


Purpose: Comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) is of increasing value for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). mCRPC tends to metastasize to bone, making tissue biopsies challenging to obtain. We hypothesized CGP of cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) could offer a minimally invasive alternative to detect targetable genomic alterations (GA) that inform clinical care.

Experimental design: Using plasma from 3,334 patients with mCRPC (including 1,674 screening samples from TRITON2/3), we evaluated the landscape of GAs detected in ctDNA and assessed concordance with tissue-based CGP.

Results: A total of 3,129 patients (94%) had detectable ctDNA with a median ctDNA fraction of 7.5%; BRCA1/2 was mutated in 295 (8.8%). In concordance analysis, 72 of 837 patients had BRCA1/2 mutations detected in tissue, 67 (93%) of which were also identified using ctDNA, including 100% of predicted germline variants. ctDNA harbored some BRCA1/2 alterations not identified by tissue testing, and ctDNA was enriched in therapy resistance alterations, as well as possible clonal hematopoiesis mutations (e.g., in ATM and CHEK2). Potential androgen receptor resistance alterations were detected in 940 of 2,213 patients (42%), including amplifications, polyclonal and compound mutations, rearrangements, and novel deletions in exon 8.

Conclusions: Genomic analysis of ctDNA from patients with mCRPC recapitulates the genomic landscape detected in tissue biopsies, with a high level of agreement in detection of BRCA1/2 mutations, but more acquired resistance alterations detected in ctDNA. CGP of ctDNA is a compelling clinical complement to tissue CGP, with reflex to tissue CGP if negative for actionable variants.See related commentary by Hawkey and Armstrong, p. 2961.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics*
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / blood
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / genetics*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Prostatic Neoplasms, Castration-Resistant / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms, Castration-Resistant / genetics*
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism*


  • AR protein, human
  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • BRCA2 Protein
  • BRCA2 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • Receptors, Androgen