Tumor Fraction Correlates With Detection of Actionable Variants Across > 23,000 Circulating Tumor DNA Samples

JCO Precis Oncol. 2022 Oct:6:e2200261. doi: 10.1200/PO.22.00261.


Purpose: Profiling of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) is increasingly adopted in the management of solid tumors, concurrent with increased availability of more comprehensive ctDNA panels. However, variable ctDNA shed can result in variable assay sensitivity. We studied the relationship between ctDNA tumor fraction (TF) and detection of actionable alterations across cancer types.

Methods: A total of 23,482 liquid biopsies (LBx) submitted between September 2020 and October 2021 were sequenced using a hybrid capture panel that reports genomic alterations (GAs) and genomic biomarkers across 324 cancer-related genes. The primary end points were the prevalence of targetable GAs by cancer type and detection in relationship to ctDNA TF. Sensitivity of detection in LBx was assessed in 1,289 patients with available tissue results.

Results: 94% (n = 22,130) of LBx had detectable ctDNA, with a median TF of 2.2%. LBx profiling detected GAs in National Comprehensive Cancer Network category 1 genes in 37% of lung, 30% of prostate, 36% of breast, and 51% of colon cancer cases. Potential germline GAs flagged on clinical reports were detected in genes including BRCA1/2, PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM. Polyclonal mutations in genes associated with resistance such as AR, ESR1, RB1, and NF1 were detected. The sensitivity of LBx to detect driver alterations identified in tissue biopsy from the same patient ranged from 58% to 86% but was consistently at or near 100% in cases with TF ≥ 10%.

Conclusion: Elevated ctDNA shed is associated with both high sensitivity and negative predictive value for detection of actionable GAs. The presence of elevated TF suggests adequate tumor profiling and may reduce the value of subsequent reflex to confirmatory tissue testing in patients with negative LBx results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Circulating Tumor DNA* / genetics
  • Genomics / methods
  • Humans
  • Liquid Biopsy
  • Male
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis


  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • Biomarkers, Tumor