Background: The detection of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) may serve as an early predictor of response and recurrence. In this study, we used a tumor-informed ctDNA test to monitor clinical outcomes in patients with high-risk hormone receptor-positive HER2-negative (HR+HER2-) tumors who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) on the I-SPY 2 trial (NCT01042379).
Methods: We collected blood samples at pretreatment, during (at 3 and 12 weeks after initiation of paclitaxel-based treatment with or without an investigational drug), after NAC prior to surgery, 4 weeks after surgery, and annually until clinical diagnosis of recurrence. Cell-free DNA was isolated from plasma (N=329 samples) and ctDNA was detected using a personalized, tumor-informed multiplex polymerase chain reaction next generation sequencing-based test (SignateraTM). All patients were at high risk for recurrence by MammaPrint. The response endpoints were pathologic complete response (pCR) and residual cancer burden (RCB), and the survival endpoint was event-free survival (EFS).
Results: This analysis included 66 patients with HR+HER2- breast cancer who had blood samples collected before, during, after NAC and had at least one blood sample after surgery with sufficient plasma for analysis. 57.1% (32/56) had grade III disease; 72.4% (42/58) were node-positive; 36.2% (21/58) had T3/T4 disease; and 33.3% (22/66) were MammaPrint High 2. The percent ctDNA positivity rates at pretreatment, after NAC prior to surgery, and 4 weeks after surgery were 79.7% (47/59), 6.5% (4/62), and 2% (1/50), respectively. Significantly higher ctDNA positivity rates at pretreatment were observed in patients with larger tumors (95% in T3/T4 vs. 69% in T1/T2, Fisher’s exact p=0.0387), higher grade tumors (94% in Grade III vs. 67% in Grade I/II, p=0.0147) and by MammaPrint score (100% in High 2 vs. 71% in High 1, p=0.0052). In this high-risk HR+/HER2- cohort, 10/66 (15.2%) achieved pCR/RCB 0, who were all ctDNA-negative at surgery. 56/66 (84.8%) had no-PCR, with RCB I (limited residual cancer), II (moderate) and III (extensive) in 7 (10.6%), 31 (47.0%) and 18 (27.3%), respectively. ctDNA-positivity after paclitaxel-based treatment was significantly associated with RCB II/III status (Fisher’s exact p=0.01). All patients in this cohort with persistent ctDNA subsequently had RCB II or III at surgery. 47 patients had paired samples collected after NAC prior to surgery and at 4 weeks after surgery. Of the 47, 91.5% (43/47) were ctDNA-negative at both time points and 8.5% (4/47) were discordant; 1 was ctDNA-negative and later tested ctDNA-positive, while 3 were ctDNA-positive and later tested ctDNA-negative. 61/66 patients had EFS data with a median of 1.6 years of follow up (range: 0.6 to 5.6). 5 tested ctDNA-positive in at least one time point after surgery. Of these, 2 experienced a recurrence (one local relapse and one distant metastasis) and both tested positive at the time of recurrence. For the patient who developed a distant recurrence it was the only blood sample available at a follow-up time point; for the patient who developed a local recurrence, blood from two earlier follow-up time points had tested negative. To date, no recurrences have been observed in those whose test(s) after surgery were negative for ctDNA.
Conclusions: The persistence of ctDNA during neoadjuvant therapy is associated with the extent of residual disease in a cohort of patients with HR+HER2- breast cancer in the I-SPY 2 trial and thus may be useful in identifying patients who are not having an optimal response to therapy. I-SPY 2.2 will test whether ctDNA has utility in redirecting therapy to improve surgical outcome and subsequent prognosis.