Monitoring the effect of first line treatment in RAS/RAF mutated metastatic colorectal cancer by serial analysis of tumor specific DNA in plasma

Caroline Emilie Brenner Thomsen, T F Hansen, R F Andersen, J Lindebjerg, L H Jensen, A Jakobsen

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BACKGROUND: Precision medicine calls for an early indicator of treatment efficiency. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) is a promising marker in this setting. Our prospective study explored the association between disease development and change of ctDNA during first line chemotherapy in patients with RAS/RAF mutated metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).

METHODS: The study included 138 patients with mCRC receiving standard first line treatment. In patients with RAS/RAF mutated tumor DNA the same mutation was quantified in the plasma using droplet digital PCR. The fractional abundance of ctDNA was assessed in plasma before treatment start and at every treatment cycle until radiologically defined progressive disease.

RESULTS: RAS/RAF mutations were detected in the plasma from 77 patients. Twenty patients progressed on treatment and 57 stopped treatment without progression. The presence of mutated DNA in plasma was correlated with poor overall survival. A low level of ctDNA after the first cycle of chemotherapy was associated with a low risk of progression. On the other hand, a significant increase of ctDNA at any time during the treatment course was associated with a high risk of progression on continuous treatment. The first increase in ctDNA level occurred at a median of 51 days before radiologically confirmed progression.

CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that the ctDNA level holds potential as a clinically valuable marker in first line treatment of mCRC. A rapid decrease was associated with a prolonged progression free interval, whereas a significant increase gave notice of early progression with a relevant lead time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research (Online)
Issue number1
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Journal Article
  • Treatment efficiency
  • RAS/RAF mutations
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Circulating tumor DNA
  • Metastatic colorectal cancer
  • Monitoring

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