The Pan-Tumor Landscape of Targetable Kinase Fusions in Circulating Tumor DNA

Clin Cancer Res. 2022 Feb 15;28(4):728-737. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-2136.


Purpose: Oncogenic kinase fusions are targetable with approved and investigational therapies and can also mediate acquired resistance (AR) to targeted therapy. We aimed to understand the clinical validity of liquid biopsy comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) to detect kinase fusions pan tumor.

Experimental design: CGP was performed on plasma and tissue samples during clinical care. All exons plus selected introns of 16 kinases involved in oncogenic fusions (ALK, BRAF, EGFR, ERBB2, FGFR1/2/3, MET, NTRK1/2/3, PDGFRA/B, RAF1, RET, and ROS1) were sequenced to capture fusions, including well-characterized and novel breakpoints. Plasma circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) fraction was estimated to inform sensitivity.

Results: Of 36,916 plasma cases, 32,492 (88%) had detectable ctDNA. Kinase fusions were detected in 1.8% of ctDNA-positive cases (571/32,492) and were most prevalent in patients with cholangiocarcinoma (4.2%), bladder cancer (3.6%), and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC; 3.1%). Of the 63 paired patient samples that had tissue and ctDNA specimens collected within 1 year and with estimated plasma ctDNA fraction >1%, fusions were detected in 47 of 51 (92%) liquid specimens with a fusion in the tissue sample. In 32 patients with fusions detected in liquid but not in tissue, 21 (66%) had evidence of putative acquired resistance.

Conclusions: Targetable kinase fusions are identified in ctDNA across cancer types. In pairs with tissue-identified fusions, fusion detection in ctDNA is reliable with elevated ctDNA fraction. These data support the validity of CGP to enable ctDNA-based fusion detection for informing clinical care in patients with advanced cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / drug therapy
  • Circulating Tumor DNA* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Mutation
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics


  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases