Use of low-frequency driver mutations detected by cell-free circulating tumor DNA to guide targeted therapy in non-small-cell lung cancer: A multicenter case series
Purpose To evaluate the clinical outcome of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer treated by targeting low variant allelic frequency (VAF) driver mutations identified through cell-free DNA (cfDNA) next-generation sequencing (NGS). Detection of driver mutations in cancer is critically important in the age of targeted therapy, where both tumor-based as well as cfDNA sequencing methods have been used for therapeutic decision making. We hypothesized that VAF should not be predictive of response and that low VAF alterations detected by cfDNA NGS can respond to targeted therapy. Patients and Methods A multicenter retrospective case review was performed to identify patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who received targeted molecular therapy on the basis of findings of low VAF alterations in cfDNA NGS. Mutations at low VAF were defined as < 0.2% mutated cfDNA molecules in a background of wild-type cfDNA. Results One hundred seventy-two patients underwent cfDNA NGS testing. Of the 172 patients, 12 were identified as having low VAF driver alterations and were considered for targeted therapy. The median progression-free survival (PFS) for all patients was 52 weeks (range, 17 to 88 weeks). For patients with EGFR exon 19 deletion (n = 7), the median PFS was 52 weeks (range, 17 to 60.5 weeks). For patients with EML4-ALK fusions (n = 3), the median PFS was 60 weeks (range, 18 to 88 weeks). The median overall survival for all patients after diagnosis was 57.6 weeks. Conclusion Targeted treatment response for driver mutations detected by cfDNA may be independent of VAF, even in relation to other higher VAF aberrations in plasma, and directly dependent on the underlying disease biology and ability to treat the patient with appropriate targeted therapy.