Supplementary Data from HPV Sequencing Facilitates Ultrasensitive Detection of HPV Circulating Tumor DNA
ARTICLE ABSTRACTHuman papillomavirus (HPV) DNA offers a convenient circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) marker for HPV-associated malignancies, but current methods, such as digital PCR (dPCR), provide insufficient accuracy for clinical applications in patients with low disease burden. We asked whether a next-generation sequencing approach, HPV sequencing (HPV-seq), could provide quantitative and qualitative assessment of HPV ctDNA in low disease burden settings.
We conducted preclinical technical validation studies on HPV-seq and applied it retrospectively to a prospective multicenter cohort of patients with locally advanced cervix cancer (NCT02388698) and a cohort of patients with oropharynx cancer. HPV-seq results were compared with dPCR. The primary outcome was progression-free survival (PFS) according to end-of-treatment HPV ctDNA detectability.
HPV-seq achieved reproducible detection of HPV DNA at levels less than 0.6 copies in cell line data. HPV-seq and dPCR results for patients were highly correlated (R2 = 0.95, P = 1.9 × 10–29) with HPV-seq detecting ctDNA at levels down to 0.03 copies/mL plasma in dPCR-negative posttreatment samples. Detectable HPV ctDNA at end-of-treatment was associated with inferior PFS with 100% sensitivity and 67% specificity for recurrence. Accurate HPV genotyping was successful from 100% of pretreatment samples. HPV ctDNA fragment sizes were consistently shorter than non–cancer-derived cell-free DNA (cfDNA) fragments, and stereotyped cfDNA fragmentomic patterns were observed across HPV genomes.
HPV-seq is a quantitative method for ctDNA detection that outperforms dPCR and reveals qualitative information about ctDNA. Our findings in this proof-of-principle study could have implications for treatment monitoring of disease burden in HPV-related cancers. Future prospective studies are needed to confirm that patients with undetectable HPV ctDNA following chemoradiotherapy have exceptionally high cure rates.