Ultra-low Input Circulating Tumor DNA Detection by MED-Amp in Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer


Purpose: The clinical utility of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) has been shown in advanced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). However, diagnostic sensitivity of many ctDNA assays is low in resectable and locally advanced disease, where tumor burden is substantially lower. We have previously described Multiplex Enrichment using Droplet Pre-Amplification (MED-Amp), a multiplexed panel for the detection of the most common oncogenic KRAS mutations in PDA. In this study, we aimed to assess the diagnostic sensitivity of MED-Amp for detection of rare mutant alleles present in the plasma of patients with localized PDA. Experimental: Design We retrospectively analyzed ninety-eight plasma samples from 51 patients with various stages of localized disease. For comparison, we measured ctDNA levels in 20 additional patients with metastatic PDA. The MED-Amp assay was used to measure the abundance of the four most common KRAS codon 12 mutations (G12C/D/R/V). We correlated the presence and quantity of ctDNA with overall survival (OS) as well as progression-free survival (PFS). Using serial plasma draws, we also assessed the relationship between changes in ctDNA allelic frequency and progression. Results: KRAS-positive ctDNA was detected in 52.9% of localized PDA and 75% of metastatic samples tested using DNA inputs as low as 2 ng. As previously reported, the presence of KRAS mutant ctDNA was correlated with worse OS for all disease stages (p = 0.02). In patients with localized PDA high ctDNA levels also correlated with significantly worse median OS (533 days vs 1090 days) and PFS (192 days vs 787 days). We also studied a small cohort of serial plasma draws to observe the relationship between ctDNA fold change and PFS. We found 83% of patients with increased fold change in mutant KRAS experienced disease progression (n=6). In contrast, 75% (n=4) of patients with decreased fold change remained disease-free (p=0.03). Conclusions: MED-Amp is a flexible and cost-effective approach for measurement of ctDNA in patients with localized cancer. Though this study focused on KRAS mutation detection, this assay could be adapted for a number of common oncogenic alterations.