Circulating Tumor DNA as a Marker of Minimal Residual Disease After Radical Resection of Colorectal Liver Metastases

JCO Precis Oncol. 2022 Nov;6:e2200244. doi: 10.1200/PO.22.00244.


Purpose: Prognostic tools to estimate the risk of relapse for patients with liver-limited metastatic colorectal cancer (LL-mCRC) undergoing resection with curative intent are needed. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) as a surrogate of postsurgical minimal residual disease is a promising marker in localized CRC. We explored the role of postoperative ctDNA as a marker of minimal residual disease in patients with radically resected LL-mCRC.

Materials and methods: Seventy-six patients with LL-mCRC were retrospectively included. DNA from tumor tissue was sequenced, and one somatic mutation was then assessed by digital droplet polymerase chain reaction in plasma samples collected after surgery to identify the persistence of ctDNA. Relapse-free survival and postresection overall survival were compared between patients with positive vs negative postoperative ctDNA.

Results: ctDNA was found in 39 (51%) of 76 patients with LL-mCRC. At a median follow-up of 77 months, 33 of 39 ctDNA-positive patients and 20 of 37 ctDNA-negative patients experienced disease relapse (P = .008). ctDNA-positive patients reported significantly shorter RFS than ctDNA-negative ones (median RFS 12.7 v 27.4 months hazard ratio, 2.09, P = .008). In the multivariable model including other prognostic covariates, this association was still significant (P = .046) and a trend toward shorter overall survival among ctDNA-positive patients was reported (hazard ratio, 1.65, P = .183).

Conclusion: The detection of postsurgical ctDNA is an independent negative prognostic marker and identifies patients at high risk of relapse after liver metastases resection.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Circulating Tumor DNA* / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • Biomarkers, Tumor