Towards clinical implementation of circulating tumor DNA in metastatic prostate cancer: Opportunities for integration and pitfalls to interpretation

Front Oncol. 2022 Nov 10:12:1054497. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2022.1054497. eCollection 2022.


Plasma circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) represents short fragments of tumor-derived DNA released into the bloodstream primarily from cancer cells undergoing apoptosis. In metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), characterizing genomic alterations in ctDNA identifies mutations, copy number alterations, and structural rearrangements with predictive and prognostic biomarker utility. These associations with clinical outcomes have resulted in ctDNA increasingly incorporated into routine clinical care. In this review, we summarize current and emerging applications for ctDNA analysis in metastatic prostate cancer, including outcome prediction, treatment selection, and characterization of treatment resistance. We also discuss potential pitfalls with interpreting ctDNA findings, namely false negatives arising from low tumor content and optimal assay design, including correction for clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential and germline variants. Understanding the influence of these limitations on interpretation of ctDNA results is necessary to overcome barriers to clinical implementation. Nevertheless, as assay availability and technology continue to improve, recognizing both opportunities and shortcomings of ctDNA analysis will retain relevance with informing the implementation of precision-oncology initiatives for metastatic prostate cancer.

Keywords: CtDNA; biomarker; cell-free DNA; resistance; targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Review