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Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Oct 15;25(20):6119-6126. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-0879. Epub 2019 Jul 12.

Circulating Tumor DNA Profiling in Small-Cell Lung Cancer Identifies Potentially Targetable Alterations.

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Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Saint Louis, Missouri.
University of California San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California.
Guardant Health Inc., Redwood, California.
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York.
Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri.



Patients with SCLC rarely undergo biopsies at relapse. When pursued, tissue obtained can be inadequate for molecular testing, posing a challenge in identifying potentially targetable alterations in a clinically meaningful time frame. We examined the feasibility of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) testing in identifying potentially targetable alterations in SCLC.


ctDNA test results were prospectively collected from patients with SCLC between 2014 and 2017 and analyzed. ctDNA profiles of SCLC at diagnosis and relapse were also compared.


A total of 609 samples collected from 564 patients between 2014 and 2017 were analyzed. The median turnaround time for test results was 14 days. Among patients with data on treatment status, there were 61 samples from 59 patients and 219 samples from 206 patients collected at diagnosis and relapse, respectively. The number of mutations or amplifications detected per sample did not differ by treatment status. Potentially targetable alterations in DNA repair, MAPK and PI3K pathways, and genes such as MYC and ARID1A were identifiable through ctDNA testing. Furthermore, our results support that it may be possible to reconstruct the clonal relationship between detected variants through ctDNA testing.


Patients with relapsed SCLC rarely undergo biopsies for molecular testing and often require prompt treatment initiation. ctDNA testing is less invasive and capable of identifying alterations in relapsed disease in a clinically meaningful timeframe. ctDNA testing on an expanded gene panel has the potential to advance our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying treatment resistance in SCLC and aid in the development of novel treatment strategies.

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