Background: Despite meticulous surgery for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), relapse is as high as 70% at 5 years. Many institutions do not conduct reflexive molecular testing on early stage specimens, although targeted gene therapy may extend life by years in the event of recurrence. This ultimately delays definitive treatment with additional biopsy risking suboptimal tissue acquisition and quality for molecular testing. Objective: To compare molecular profiles of genetic alterations in early and late NSCLC to provide evidence that reflexive molecular testing provides clinically valuable information. Methods: A single-center propensity matched retrospective analysis was conducted using prospectively collected data. Adults with early and late-stage NSCLC had tissue subject to targeted panel-based NGS. Frequencies of putative drivers were compared, with 1:3 matching on the propensity score; p < 0.05 deemed statistically significant. Results: In total, 635 NSCLC patients underwent NGS (59 early, 576 late); 276 (43.5%) females; age 70.9 (±10.2) years; never smokers 140 (22.0%); 527 (83.0%) adenocarcinomas. Unadjusted frequencies of EGFR mutations were higher in the early cohort (30% vs. 18%). Following adjustment for sex and smoking status, similar frequencies for both early and late NSCLC were observed for variants in EGFR, KRAS, ALK, MET, and ROS1. Conclusion: The frequency of clinically actionable variants in early and late-stage NSCLC was found to be similar, providing evidence that molecular profiling should be performed on surgical specimens. This pre-determined profile is essential to avoid treatment delay for patients who will derive clinical benefit from targeted systemic therapy, in the high likelihood of subsequent relapse.
Keywords: biomarker; lung cancer; next-generation sequencing; targeted therapy.