The detection of mutated genes in cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in plasma has emerged as an important minimally invasive way to obtain detailed information regarding tumor biology. Reliable determination of circulating tumor–derived DNA, often present at a low quantity amidst an excess of normal DNA in plasma, would be of added value for screening and monitoring of cancer patients and for hypothesis-generating studies in valuable retrospective cohorts. Our aim was to establish a workflow to simultaneously assess four hotspot estrogen receptor mutations (mESR1) in cfDNA isolated from only 200 μL of plasma by means of uniplex or multiplex pre-amplification combined with digital PCR. This workflow was then applied in metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients receiving systemic therapies for MBC. In accordance with previous studies, estrogen receptor mutations were more frequently detected in endocrine-treated MBC patients at progressive disease [34.1% (15/44)] than before the start of endocrine therapy [3.9% (2/51); P = 0.001]. For a subset of samples, results were compared with analysis of these mutations by Oncomine-targeted next-generation sequencing, which, although requiring a higher cfDNA input, yielded concordant results. The data establish development and validation of a digital PCR workflow for the simultaneous detection of several tumor-derived mutations in minute amounts of cfDNA and show the potential of this workflow for use on archived volume-limited blood samples.

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Journal The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics
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Vitale, S.R. (Silvia R.), Sieuwerts, A.M, Beije, N, Kraan, J, Angus, L, Mostert, B, … Martens, J.W.M. (John W.M.). (2019). An Optimized Workflow to Evaluate Estrogen Receptor Gene Mutations in Small Amounts of Cell-Free DNA. The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, 21(1), 123–137. doi:10.1016/j.jmoldx.2018.08.010