Liquid biopsy in esophageal cancer: a case report of false-positive circulating tumor DNA detection due to clonal hematopoiesis

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Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis is a promising non-invasive technique for active surveillance after chemoradiotherapy for locally advanced resectable esophageal carcinoma. In other malignancies false-positive results in ctDNA analysis have been reported due to clonal hematopoiesis. In this case, we present a 66-year-old male who had adenocarcinoma of the gastroesophageal junction for which he received neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy and underwent a transhiatal esophagectomy. Postoperatively our patient received follow-up with ctDNA analysis using next generation sequencing (NGS) and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR). This case report illustrates a number of the current challenges in ctDNA diagnostics in esophageal carcinoma. Firstly, the TP53 c.524G>A; p.R175H mutation that was found in preoperative tumor biopsies became detectable in ctDNA only after distant metastases had already been confirmed by clinical symptoms and standard imaging- and biopsy techniques. Secondly our patient repeatedly had false-positive outcomes of ctDNA analysis. Genomic analysis of white blood cells revealed that the origin of these discordant mutations lies in clonal hematopoiesis. Failure to detect TP53 c.524G>A; p.R175H in cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is most likely due to the amount of ctDNA in the cfDNA fraction being below the limit of detection for NGS and ddPCR analyses. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of finding mutations originating from clonal hematopoiesis when using ctDNA analysis during active surveillance for esophageal carcinoma. We recommend correlation of mutations in cfDNA with mutations in tumor biopsies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1264
JournalAnnals of Translational Medicine
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

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2021 Annals of Translational Medicine. All rights reserved.


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