Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) is released from tumor cells into blood in advanced cancer patients. Although gene mutations in individual tumors can be diverse and heterogenous, ctDNA has the potential to provide comprehensive biomarker information. Here, we performed multi-region sampling (three sites) per resected specimen from 10 gastric cancer patients followed by targeted sequencing and proteomic profiling using reverse-phase protein arrays. A total of 126 non-synonymous mutations were identified from 30 samples from 10 tumors. Of these, 16 (12.7%) were present in all three regions and were designated as founder mutations. Variant allele frequencies (VAFs) of founder mutations were significantly higher than those of non-founder mutations. Phylogenetic analysis also demonstrated a good concordance between founder and truncal mutations, defined as mutations shared by all simulated clones at the trunk of the tumor phylogenetic tree. These findings led us to prioritize founder mutations for quantitative ctDNA monitoring by digital PCR with individuallydesigned primer/probe sets. In preoperative plasma, the average ctDNA VAF of founder mutations was significantly higher than that of non-founder mutations (p = 0.039). Proteomic heterogeneity was present across the tumor regions both within and between patients independent of mutational status. Our results suggest that, in practice, mutations having high VAF identified without multi-regional sequencing may be immediately useful for quantitative ctDNA monitoring but do not provide sufficient information to predict the proteomic composition of tumors.
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