Detection of circulating tumour DNA after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy in patients with locally advanced oesophageal cancer

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Active surveillance instead of standard surgery after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) has been proposed for patients with oesophageal cancer. Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) may be used to facilitate selection of patients for surgery. We show that detection of ctDNA after nCRT seems highly suggestive of major residual disease. Tumour biopsies and blood samples were taken before, and 6 and 12 weeks after, nCRT. Biopsies were analysed with regular targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS). Circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) was analysed using targeted NGS with unique molecular identifiers and digital polymerase chain reaction. cfDNA mutations matching pre-treatment biopsy mutations confirmed the presence of ctDNA. In total, 31 patients were included, of whom 24 had a biopsy mutation that was potentially detectable in cfDNA (77%). Pre-treatment ctDNA was detected in nine of 24 patients (38%), four of whom had incurable disease progression before surgery. Pre-treatment ctDNA detection had a sensitivity of 47% (95% CI 24–71) (8/17), specificity of 85% (95% CI 42–99) (6/7), positive predictive value (PPV) of 89% (95% CI 51–99) (8/9), and negative predictive value (NPV) of 40% (95% CI 17–67) (6/15) for detecting major residual disease (>10% residue in the resection specimen or progression before surgery). After nCRT, ctDNA was detected in three patients, two of whom had disease progression. Post-nCRT ctDNA detection had a sensitivity of 21% (95% CI 6–51) (3/14), specificity of 100% (95% CI 56–100) (7/7), PPV of 100% (95% CI 31–100) (3/3), and NPV of 39% (95% CI 18–64) (7/18) for detecting major residual disease. The addition of ctDNA to the current set of diagnostics did not lead to more patients being clinically identified with residual disease. These results indicate that pre-treatment and post-nCRT ctDNA detection may be useful in identifying patients at high risk of disease progression. The addition of ctDNA analysis to the current set of diagnostic modalities may not improve detection of residual disease after nCRT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

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© 2022 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.


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