Intra-patient stability of tumor mutational burden from tissue biopsies at different time points in advanced cancers

Genome Med. 2021 Oct 12;13(1):159. doi: 10.1186/s13073-021-00979-8.


Background: Tumor mutational burden (TMB) may be a predictive biomarker of immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) responsiveness. Genomic landscape heterogeneity is a well-established cancer feature. Molecular characteristics may differ even within the same tumor specimen and undoubtedly evolve with time. However, the degree to which TMB differs between tumor biopsies within the same patient has not been established.

Methods: We curated data on 202 patients enrolled in the PREDICT study (NCT02478931), seen at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), who had 404 tissue biopsies for TMB (two per patient, mean of 722 days between biopsies) to assess difference in TMB before and after treatment in a pan-cancer cohort. We also performed an orthogonal analysis of 2872 paired pan-solid tumor biopsies in the Foundation Medicine database to examine difference in TMB between first and last biopsies.

Results: The mean (95% CI) TMB difference between samples was 0.583 [- 0.900-2.064] (p = 0.15). Pearson correlation showed a flat line for time elapsed between biopsies versus TMB change indicating no correlation (R2 = 0.0001; p = 0.8778). However, in 55 patients who received ICIs, there was an increase in TMB (before versus after mean mutations/megabase [range] 12.50 [range, 0.00-98.31] versus 14.14 [range, 0.00-100.0], p = 0.025). Analysis of 2872 paired pan-solid tumor biopsies in the Foundation Medicine database also indicated largely stable TMB patterns; TMB increases were only observed in specific tumors (e.g., breast, colorectal, glioma) within certain time intervals.

Conclusions: Overall, our results suggest that tissue TMB remains stable with time, though specific therapies such as immunotherapy may correlate with an increase in TMB.

Trial registration: NCT02478931 , registered June 23, 2015.

Keywords: Immunotherapy; Immunotherapy effect on TMB; TMB over time; TMB over treatment; Tumor mutational burden.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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