Evaluation of PCR-HRM, RFLP, and direct sequencing as simple and cost-effective methods to detect common EGFR mutations in plasma cell-free DNA of non-small cell lung cancer patients

Lung Cancer
29/07/2020

Cancer Rep (Hoboken). 2019 Aug;2(4):e1159. doi: 10.1002/cnr2.1159. Epub 2019 Feb 3.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Lung cancer patients with mutations in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene are treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

AIMS: We aimed to evaluate polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-high-resolution melting (HRM), restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), and direct sequencing (DS) to detect EGFR mutations in cell-free DNA (cfDNA) before and after TKI treatment in real-world settings of a developing country.

METHODS: Paired cytology and plasma samples were collected from 116 treatment-naïve lung cancer patients. DNA from both plasma and cytology specimens was isolated and analyzed using PCR-HRM (to detect exon 19 insertion/deletion), RFLP (to genotypes L858R and L861Q), and DS (to detect uncommon mutations G719A, G719C, or G719S [G719Xaa] in exon 18 and T790M and insertion mutations in exon 20).

RESULTS: EGFR genotypes were obtained in all 116 (100%) cfDNA and 110/116 (94.82%) of cytological specimens of treatment-naïve patient (baseline samples). EGFR-activating mutations were detected in 46/110 (40.6%) plasma samples, and 69/110 (63.2%) mutations were found in routine cytology samples. Using cytological EGFR genotypes as reference, we found that sensitivity and specificity of baseline plasma EGFR testing varied from 9.1% to 39.39% and 83.12% to 96.55%, respectively. In particular, the sensitivity and specificity of this assay in detecting baseline T790M mutations in exon 20 were 30% and 89.58%, respectively. Three months after TKI treatment, plasma T790M and insertion exon 20 mutations appeared in 5.4% and 2.7% patients, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite low sensitivity, combined DS, RFLP, and PCR-HRM was able to detect EGFR mutations in plasma cfDNA with high specificity. Moreover, TKI resistance exon 20 insertions mutation was detected as early as 3 months post TKI treatment.