Liquid Biopsy as a Tool Exploring in Real-Time Both Genomic Perturbation and Resistance to EGFR Antagonists in Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Front Oncol. 2020 Sep 25;10:581130. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2020.581130. eCollection 2020.


The treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) has improved since the introduction of the epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors as cetuximab and panitumumab. However, only patients with peculiar genomic profiles benefit from these targeting therapies. In fact, the molecular integrity of RAS genes is a predominant factor conditioning both primary and acquired resistance in non-responders although additional molecular derangements induced by selective anti-EGFR pressure may concur to the failure of those disease treatment, liquid biopsy (LB) appears as a surrogate of tissue biopsy, provides the genomic information to reveal tumor resistance to anti-EGFR agents, the detection of minimal residual disease before adjuvant therapies, and the discovery of tumor molecular status suitable for rechallenging treatments with EGFR antagonists. LB investigates circulating tumor cells (CTCs), cell-free tumor DNA (ctDNA), and tumor-derived exosomes. In mCRC, ctDNA analysis has been demonstrated as a useful method in the mutational tracking of defined genes as well as on tumor burden and detection of molecular alterations driving the resistance to anti-EGFR targeting treatments. However, despite their efficiency in molecular diagnosis and prognostic evaluation of mCRC, the affordability of these procedures is prevalently restricted to research centers, and the lack of consensus validation prevents their translation to clinical practice. Here, we revisit the major mechanisms responsible for resistance to EGFR blockade and review the different methods of LB potentially useful for treatment options in mCRC.