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Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Sep 15;24(18):4437-4443. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-0143. Epub 2018 Mar 22.

False-Positive Plasma Genotyping Due to Clonal Hematopoiesis.

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Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Belfer Center for Applied Cancer Science, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Contributed equally


Purpose: Plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) genotyping is increasingly used in cancer care, but assay accuracy has been debated. Because most cfDNA is derived from peripheral blood cells (PBC), we hypothesized that nonmalignant mutations harbored by hematopoietic cells (clonal hematopoiesis, CH) could be a cause of false-positive plasma genotyping.Experimental Design: We identified patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with KRAS, JAK2, or TP53 mutations identified in cfDNA. With consent, PBC DNA was tested using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) or next-generation sequencing (NGS) to test for CH-derived mutations.Results: We first studied plasma ddPCR results from 58 patients with EGFR-mutant NSCLC. Two had KRAS G12X detected in cfDNA, and both were present in PBC, including one where the KRAS mutation was detected serially for 20 months. We then studied 143 plasma NGS results from 122 patients with NSCLC and identified 5 JAK2 V617F mutations derived from PBC. In addition, 108 TP53 mutations were detected in cfDNA; for 33 of the TP53 mutations, PBC and tumor NGS were available for comparison, and 5 were present in PBC but absent in tumor, consistent with CH.Conclusions: We find that most JAK2 mutations, some TP53 mutations, and rare KRAS mutations detected in cfDNA are derived from CH not tumor. Clinicians ordering plasma genotyping must be prepared for the possibility that mutations detected in plasma, particularly in genes mutated in CH, may not represent true tumor genotype. Efforts to use plasma genotyping for cancer detection may need paired PBC genotyping so that CH-derived mutations are not misdiagnosed as occult malignancy. Clin Cancer Res; 24(18); 4437-43. ©2018 AACRSee related commentary by Bauml and Levy, p. 4352.

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