Failure of colorectal cancer (CRC) treatment is due to residual disease, and its timely identification is critical for patient survival. Detecting CRC-associated mutations in patient circulating cell-free DNA is confounded by tumor mutation heterogeneity, requiring primary tumor sequencing to identify relevant mutations. In this study, we assessed BCAT1 and IKZF1 methylation levels to quantify circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and investigated whether this method can be used to assess tumor burden and efficacy of therapy. In 175 patients with CRC who were ctDNA-positive pretreatment, ctDNA levels were higher with advancing stage (P < 0.05) and correlated with tumor diameter (r = 0.35, P < 0.001) and volume (r = 0.58, P < 0.01). After completion of treatment (median of 70 days [IQR 49-109] after surgery, +/− radiotherapy, +/− chemotherapy), ctDNA levels were reduced in 98% (47/48) and were undetectable in 88% (42/48) of patients tested. For those with incomplete adjuvant chemotherapy after surgery, roughly half remained ctDNA-positive (11/21, 52.4%). The presence of ctDNA after treatment was associated with disease progression (HR 9.7, 95%CI 2.5-37.6) compared to no ctDNA. Assaying blood for ctDNA methylated in BCAT1/IKZF1 has the potential for identifying residual disease due to treatment failure, informing a potential need for therapy adjustment in advanced disease.
- circulating tumor DNA
- colorectal cancer