Circulating Tumour DNA as a Biomarker Source in Metastatic Prostate Cancer
Tumour molecular features are increasingly linked to treatment response and patient prognosis in advanced prostate cancer. Plasma cell-free circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) isolated from a minimally invasive blood draw offers a convenient source of tumour material to develop clinical biomarkers. Importantly, the burden of ctDNA in the blood has strong prognostic implications at different points during the natural history of metastatic progression. In prostate cancer, the identification of somatic profiles from ctDNA requires a broad next-generation sequencing approach because of the low mutation rate and frequent structural rearrangements. Nevertheless, comparison of genomic profiles between liquid and tissue biopsies has demonstrated that ctDNA is a surrogate for tumour tissue in the metastatic setting. Our understanding of resistance to androgen receptor (AR) directed therapies has been significantly augmented by the frequent detection of AR gene amplifications, mutations, and structural rearrangements via liquid biopsy. Furthermore, early studies suggest that distinct molecular subtypes derived from ctDNA profiling can help determine the optimal therapeutic regimen for an individual patient and enable real-time monitoring for therapy response and resistance. Indeed, in clinical trials targeting the DNA damage repair pathway in prostate cancer, ctDNA-based assessment of DNA repair status is already under evaluation as a predictive biomarker. Recent advances in the study of circulating DNA fragments now make it possible to interrogate aspects of the epigenome. In this review, we describe the various applications of plasma ctDNA in metastatic prostate cancer, including its potential role as a clinically informative liquid biomarker.
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