Circulating cell-free DNA has a high degree of specificity to detect exon 19 deletions and the single-point substitution mutation L858R in non-small cell lung cancer
OBJECTIVE It is important to analyze and track Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) mutation status for predicting efficacy and monitoring resistance throughout EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) treatment in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. The objective of this study was to determine the feasibility and predictive utility of EGFR mutation detection in peripheral blood. METHODS Plasma, serum and tumor tissue samples from 164 NSCLC patients were assessed for EGFR mutations using Amplification Refractory Mutation System (ARMS). RESULTS Compared with matched tumor tissue, the concordance rate of EGFR mutation status in plasma and serum was 73.6% and 66.3%, respectively. ARMS for EGFR mutation detection in blood showed low sensitivity (plasma, 48.2%; serum, 39.6%) but high specificity (plasma, 95.4%; serum, 95.5%). Treated with EGFR-TKIs, patients with EGFR mutations in blood had significantly higher objective response rate (ORR) and insignificantly longer progression-free survival (PFS) than those without mutations (ORR: plasma, 68.4% versus 38.9%, P = 0.037; serum, 75.0% versus 39.5%, P = 0.017; PFS: plasma, 7.9 months versus 6.1 months, P = 0.953; serum, 7.9 months versus 5.7 months, P = 0.889). In patients with mutant tumors, those without EGFR mutations in blood tended to have prolonged PFS than patients with mutations (19.7 months versus 11.0 months, P = 0.102). CONCLUSIONS EGFR mutations detected in blood may be highly predictive of identical mutations in corresponding tumor, as well as showing correlations with tumor response and survival benefit from EGFR-TKIs. Therefore, blood for EGFR mutation detection may allow NSCLC patients with unavailable or insufficient tumor tissue the opportunity to benefit from personalized treatment. However, due to the high false negative rate in blood samples, analysis for EGFR mutations in tumor tissue remains the gold standard.