ARTICLE ABSTRACTMicrosatellite instability (MSI) and high tumor mutation burden (TMB-High) are promising pan-tumor biomarkers used to select patients for treatment with immune checkpoint blockade; however, real-time sequencing of unresectable or metastatic solid tumors is often challenging. We report a noninvasive approach for detection of MSI and TMB-High in the circulation of patients.
We developed an approach that utilized a hybrid-capture–based 98-kb pan-cancer gene panel, including targeted microsatellite regions. A multifactorial error correction method and a novel peak-finding algorithm were established to identify rare MSI frameshift alleles in cell-free DNA (cfDNA).
Through analysis of cfDNA derived from a combination of healthy donors and patients with metastatic cancer, the error correction and peak-finding approaches produced a specificity of >99% (n = 163) and sensitivities of 78% (n = 23) and 67% (n = 15), respectively, for MSI and TMB-High. For patients treated with PD-1 blockade, we demonstrated that MSI and TMB-High in pretreatment plasma predicted progression-free survival (hazard ratios: 0.21 and 0.23, P = 0.001 and 0.003, respectively). In addition, we analyzed cfDNA from longitudinally collected plasma samples obtained during therapy to identify patients who achieved durable response to PD-1 blockade.
These analyses demonstrate the feasibility of noninvasive pan-cancer screening and monitoring of patients who exhibit MSI or TMB-High and have a high likelihood of responding to immune checkpoint blockade.See related commentary by Wang and Ajani, p. 6887