Detection of plasma EGFR mutations for personalized treatment of lung cancer patients without pathologic diagnosis

Qinfang Deng, Qiyu Fang, Hui Sun, Aditi P. Singh, Mariam Alexander, Shenduo Li, Haiying Cheng, Songwen Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Next-generation sequencing (NGS) and digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based platforms have been used to detect EGFR mutations in plasma circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) with high accuracy. Generally, molecular testing is performed after histopathological analysis. However, many patients with suspected advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer are unable to undergo biopsy thus forgoing potential treatment with highly effective tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in patients with sensitizing EGFR mutations. We examined the utility of ctDNA testing to detect EGFR mutations in patients' plasma, where tissue biopsy is not feasible. Methods: We conducted a single-center, prospective study of 30 Chinese patients with suspected advanced lung cancer, who were unable to undergo a biopsy for initial diagnosis due to comorbidities or poor performance status. Patients with plasma EGFR sensitizing mutations were treated with first-generation EGFR TKIs. Results: Twenty of 30 patients enrolled had sensitizing EGFR mutations in ctDNA and were started on EGFR TKIs. After a median follow-up of 12 months, median progression-free survival (PFS) was 10 months and median overall survival (OS) was not reached. The median OS for the 10 untreated patients was 3 months. Conclusions: In our study, patients with plasma EGFR mutations treated with TKIs showed disease control rate (DCR) and PFS similar to historical controls that were treated based on tissue testing. This is the first prospective study showing that ctDNA genotyping provides a feasible diagnostic approach for frail lung cancer patients who are unable to undergo biopsy, which subsequently leads to EGFR-targeted therapy, and improved outcomes in this subgroup of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2085-2095
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • EGFR mutations
  • ctDNA
  • lung cancer
  • personalized treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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