Early identification of treatment benefit by methylated circulating tumor DNA in metastatic colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Thomsen CB, et al. Ther Adv Med Oncol 2020.


BACKGROUND: The early identification of treatment effect is wanted in several settings, including the management of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). A potential universal marker is circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Our prospective study explored the association between progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS), and early change of ctDNA after one cycle of chemotherapy in patients with mCRC.

METHODS: The study included mCRC patients receiving standard first line combination chemotherapy with 5-Fluorouracil (FU), oxaliplatin, and bevacizumab. Hypermethylated neuropeptide Y (NPY) ctDNA (meth-ctDNA) served as a marker analyzed by droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The meth-ctDNA level was analyzed in plasma before treatment start and again before cycle two. The patients were divided into two groups according to the dynamics of meth-ctDNA. Low ctDNA (LctDNA) included patients with zero or values of meth-ctDNA decreasing to a level including zero in the 95% confidence interval. High ctDNA (HctDNA) included all other patients (stable, increasing, or slightly decreasing values). The two groups were compared as to PFS and OS.

RESULTS: The study included 123 patients. The PFS in the two groups differed significantly with a median of 9.2 and 6.7 months in LctDNA and HctDNA, respectively (p = 0.0005). This translated into a 12-month difference in OS with a median of 25.4 and 13.5 months, respectively (p = 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Early therapeutic reconsideration is of utmost importance. A low level of meth-ctDNA after one cycle of chemotherapy in the first line setting is a potential marker for excellent clinical outcomes. The clinical utility should be confirmed in randomized clinical trials.