Analytical and Clinical Validation of Cell-Free Circulating Tumor DNA Assay for the Estimation of Tumor Mutational Burden

Kwang Seob Lee, Jieun Seo, Choong Kun Lee, Saeam Shin, Zisun Choi, Seungki Min, Jun Hyuek Yang, Woo Sun Kwon, Woobin Yun, Mi Ri Park, Jong Rak Choi, Hyun Cheol Chung, Seung Tae Lee, Sun Young Rha

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BACKGROUND: Ultra-deep sequencing to detect low-frequency mutations in circulating tumor-derived DNA (ctDNA) increases the diagnostic value of liquid biopsy. The demand for large ctDNA panels for comprehensive genomic profiling and tumor mutational burden (TMB) estimation is increasing; however, few ctDNA panels for TMB have been validated. Here, we designed a ctDNA panel with 531 genes, named TMB500, along with a technical and clinical validation. METHODS: Synthetic reference cell-free DNA materials with predefined allele frequencies were sequenced in a total of 92 tests in 6 batches to evaluate the precision, linearity, and limit of detection of the assay. We used clinical samples from 50 patients with various cancers, 11 healthy individuals, and paired tissue samples. Molecular barcoding and data analysis were performed using customized pipelines. RESULTS: The assay showed high precision and linearity (coefficient of determination, r2 =0.87) for all single nucleotide variants, with a limit of detection of 0.24%. In clinical samples, the TMB500 ctDNA assay detected most variants present and absent in tissues, showing that ctDNA could assess tumor heterogeneity in different tissues and metastasis sites. The estimated TMBs correlated well between tissue and blood, except in 4 cases with extreme heterogeneity that showed very high blood TMBs compared to tissue TMBs. A pilot evaluation showed that the TMB500 assay could be used for disease monitoring. CONCLUSIONS: The TMB500 assay is an accurate and reliable ctDNA assay for many clinical purposes. It may be useful for guiding the treatment of cancers with diverse genomic profiles, estimating TMB in immune therapy, and disease monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1519-1528
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Chemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 6

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  • Medicine(all)


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