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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Clinical Cancer Research, Volume 23, Issue 20, October 2018, Pages 6086-6093.

The published version is available at Copyright © AACR


Purpose: Early detection is essential for treatment plans before onset of metastatic disease. Our purpose was to demonstrate feasibility to detect and monitor estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1) gene mutations at the single circulating tumor cell (CTC) level in metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Experimental Design: We used a CTC molecular characterization approach to investigate heterogeneity of 14 hotspot mutations in ESR1 and their correlation with endocrine resistance. Combining the CellSearch and DEPArray technologies allowed recovery of 71 single CTCs and 12 WBC from 3 ER-positive MBC patients. Forty CTCs and 12 WBC were subjected to whole genome amplification by MALBAC and Sanger sequencing. Results: Among 3 selected patients, 2 had an ESR1 mutation (Y537). One showed two different ESR1 variants in a single CTC and another showed loss of heterozygosity. All mutations were detected in matched cell-free DNA (cfDNA). Furthermore, one had 2 serial blood samples analyzed and showed changes in both cfDNA and CTCs with emergence of mutations in ESR1 (Y537S and T570I), which has not been reported previously. Conclusions: CTCs are easily accessible biomarkers to monitor and better personalize management of patients with previously demonstrated ER-MBC who are progressing on endocrine therapy. We showed that single CTC analysis can yield important information on clonal heterogeneity and can be a source of discovery of novel and potential driver mutations. Finally, we also validate a workflow for liquid biopsy that will facilitate early detection of ESR1 mutations, the emergence of endocrine resistance and the choice of further target therapy. ©2017 AACR.

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