Serial circulating tumour DNA analysis for locally advanced rectal cancer treated with preoperative therapy: prediction of pathological response and postoperative recurrence

Satoshi Murahashi, Takashi Akiyoshi, Takeshi Sano, Yosuke Fukunaga, Tetsuo Noda, Masashi Ueno, Hitoshi Zembutsu
British Journal of Cancer 2020 June 22

BACKGROUND: The "watch-and-wait" approach is a common treatment option amongst patients with locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC). However, the diagnostic sensitivity of clinical modalities, such as colonoscopy and magnetic resonance imaging to determine pathological response, is not high. We analysed the clinical utility of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) of patients with LARC to predict response to preoperative therapy and postoperative recurrence.

METHODS: A serial ctDNA analysis of 222 plasma samples from 85 patients with LARC was performed using amplicon-based deep sequencing on a cell-free DNA panel covering 14 genes with over 240 hotspots.

RESULTS: ctDNA was detected in 57.6% and 22.3% of samples at baseline and after preoperative treatment, respectively, which was significantly different (P = 0.0003). Change in ctDNA was an independent predictor of complete response to preoperative therapy (P = 0.0276). In addition, postoperative ctDNA and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) were independent prognostic markers for risk of recurrence after surgery (ctDNA, P = 0.0127 and CEA, P = 0.0105), with a combined analysis having cumulative effects on recurrence-free survival (P = 1.0 × 10-16 ).

CONCLUSIONS: Serial ctDNA analysis may offer clinically useful predictive and prognostic markers for response to preoperative therapy and postoperative recurrence in patients with LARC.

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