Circulating tumor DNA dynamics using patient-customized assays are associated with outcome in neoadjuvantly treated breast cancer

Timothy M. Butler, Christopher T. Boniface, Katie Johnson-Camacho, Shaadi Tabatabaei, Daira Melendez, Taylor Kelley, Joe Gray, Christopher L. Corless, Paul T. Spellman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Pathological complete response (pCR) is an accurate predictor of good outcome following neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) for locally advanced breast cancer. The presence of circulating-tumor DNA (ctDNA) has recently been reported to be strongly predictive of poor outcome in similar patient groups. We monitored ctDNA levels from 10 women undergoing NAC for locally advanced breast cancer using a patient-specific, hybrid-capture sequencing technique sensitive to the level of one altered allele in 10,000. Plasma was collected prior to the start of NAC, prior to each infusion of NAC, and during follow-up for between 350 and 1150 d after the start of NAC. Prior to the start of NAC, ctDNAwas detectable in 3/3 triple negative, 3/3 HER2+, and 2/4 HER2-, ER+ breast cancer patients. Total cellfree DNA levels were considerably higher when patients were on NAC than at other times. ctDNA dynamics during NAC showed that patients with pCR experienced rapid declines in ctDNA levels, whereas patients without pCR typically showed evidence of residual ctDNA after initiation of treatment. Intriguingly, two of three patients that showed marked increases in ctDNA while on NAC experienced rapid recurrences (<2 yr following start of NAC). The third patient that had increases in ctDNA levels while on NAC had low-grade ER+ disease and showed residual ctDNA after surgery, which became undetectable after local radiation. Taken together, these results demonstrate the ability of our approach to sensitively serially monitor ctDNA during NAC, and identifies a need to further investigate the possibility of stratifying patients who need additional treatment or identify therapies that are ineffective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera003772
JournalCold Spring Harbor Molecular Case Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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