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Oncologist. 2017 Feb;22(2):152-157. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2015-0511. Epub 2017 Feb 13.

Comprehensive Genomic Profiling Aids in Distinguishing Metastatic Recurrence from Second Primary Cancers.

Author information

Division of Hematology-Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA.
Foundation Medicine Inc, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Pathology, University of California Irvine, Orange, California, USA.
Division of Hematology-Oncology, Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California Irvine, Orange, California, USA.
Division of Gynecologic Oncology, University of California Irvine, Orange, California, USA.
Department of Pathology, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C., USA.
The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, Los Angeles, California, USA
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA.



Metastatic recurrence after treatment for locoregional cancer is a major cause of morbidity and cancer-specific mortality. Distinguishing metastatic recurrence from the development of a second primary cancer has important prognostic and therapeutic value and represents a difficult clinical scenario. Advances beyond histopathological comparison are needed. We sought to interrogate the ability of comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) to aid in distinguishing between these clinical scenarios.


We identified three prospective cases of recurrent tumors in patients previously treated for localized cancers in which histologic analyses suggested subsequent development of a distinct second primary. Paired samples from the original primary and recurrent tumor were subjected to hybrid capture next-generation sequencing-based CGP to identify base pair substitutions, insertions, deletions, copy number alterations (CNA), and chromosomal rearrangements. Genomic profiles between paired samples were compared using previously established statistical clonality assessment software to gauge relatedness beyond global CGP similarities.


A high degree of similarity was observed among genomic profiles from morphologically distinct primary and recurrent tumors. Genomic information suggested reclassification as recurrent metastatic disease, and patients received therapy for metastatic disease based on the molecular determination.


Our cases demonstrate an important adjunct role for CGP technologies in separating metastatic recurrence from development of a second primary cancer. Larger series are needed to confirm our observations, but comparative CGP may be considered in patients for whom distinguishing metastatic recurrence from a second primary would alter the therapeutic approach. The Oncologist 2017;22:152-157Implications for Practice: Distinguishing a metastatic recurrence from a second primary cancer can represent a difficult clinicopathologic problem but has important prognostic and therapeutic implications. Approaches to aid histologic analysis may improve clinician and pathologist confidence in this increasingly common clinical scenario. Our series provides early support for incorporating paired comprehensive genomic profiling in clinical situations in which determination of metastatic recurrence versus a distinct second primary cancer would influence patient management.


Genomic profiling; Metastatic; NSCLC; Next‐generation sequencing; Recurrence; Second primary

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