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PLoS One. 2014 Nov 18;9(11):e110780. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110780. eCollection 2014.

Quantification and dynamic monitoring of EGFR T790M in plasma cell-free DNA by digital PCR for prognosis of EGFR-TKI treatment in advanced NSCLC.

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Department of Thoracic Medical Oncology, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Translational Research (Ministry of Education), Beijing Cancer Hospital & Beijing Institute for Cancer Research, Beijing, China.



Among advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with an acquired resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI), about 50% carry the T790M mutation, but this frequency in EGFR-TKI-naïve patients and dynamic change during therapy remains unclear. This study investigated the quantification and dynamic change of T790M mutation in plasma cell-free DNA (cf-DNA) of advanced NSCLC patients to assess the clinical outcomes of EGFR-TKI therapy.


We retrospectively investigated 135 patients with advanced NSCLC who obtained progression-free survival (PFS) after EGFR-TKI for >6 months for their EGFR sensitive mutations and T790M mutation in matched pre- and post-TKI plasma samples, using denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC), amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS), and digital-PCR (D-PCR). Real-time PCR was performed to measure c-MET amplification.


Detection limit of D-PCR in assessing the T790M mutation was approximately 0.03%. D-PCR identified higher frequency of T790M than ARMS in pre-TKI (31.3% vs. 5.5%) and post-TKI (43.0% vs. 25.2%) plasma samples. Patients with pre-TKI T790M showed inferior PFS (8.9 vs. 12.1 months, p = 0.007) and overall survival (OS, 19.3 vs. 31.9 months, p = 0.001) compared with those without T790M. In patients harboring EGFR sensitive mutation, high quantities of pre-TKI T790M predicted poorer PFS (p = 0.001) on EGFR-TKI than low ones. Moreover, patients who experienced increased quantity of T790M during EGFR-TKI treatment showed superior PFS and OS compared with those with decreased changes (p = 0.044 and p = 0.015, respectively).


Qualitative and quantitative T790M in plasma cf-DNA by D-PCR provided a non-invasive and sensitive assay to predict EGFR-TKI prognosis.

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