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Molecular Mechanisms of Resistance to Osimertinib from Liquid Biopsies of Plasma and Pleura Effusion in EGFR Mutant NSCLC Patients

Author(s): Ning Li, Shuhang Wang, Huiyao Huang, Minghui Zhang, Zicheng Yu, Feng Xie, Shidong Jia, Yixuan Ren, Danyi Wen

In the past decade, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) have been developed and widely-approved by countries to treat advanced lung cancer patients with sensitizing epidermal growth factor (EGFR) mutations, and substantially improved patients’ prognosis compared to traditional chemotherapies. However, a large proportion of patients who initially experienced ostensibly remarkable therapeutic outcomes still developed inevitable drug resistance eventually, including those received newly developed third-generation TKIs. Previous studies have demonstrated the value of plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in monitoring patients’ response to therapies in lung cancer. However due to several physiological reasons and DNA degradation, DNA released from tumor cell apoptosis in lung was hard to maintain at a high concentration and good quality before being collected from venous blood, leading to the loss of pivotal mutational information. Pleural effusion is a potential substitute to overcome these problems.

However, limited studies have been reported to characterize the consistency of genetic alterations found in these two sample types, and due to the modest sample sizes, the mechanisms underlying third-generation TKI resistance remains elusive. Herein we drew 8ml venous blood and collected 20ml pleural effusion by pleural effusion drainage from 8 lung cancer patients, and performed hybrid-capture based next generation sequencing assays on 18 matched plasma cfDNA, pleural effusion cells genomic DNA and pleural effusion supernatant cfDNA samples, we have shown that only sequencing either plasma or pleural effusion sample resulted in the missing of mutations in key cancer drivers. Sequencing both pleural effusion and plasma yielded a more concrete genetic landscape for monitoring tumor response. We have also exhibited that somatic mutations and copy number changes in PI3K/AKT pathway, NOTCH signaling pathway, hedgehog signaling pathway and pathways involved in DNA damage repair might be potential mechanisms underlying TKI resistance, and might serve as candidate targets for developing novel therapies to circumvent patients’ resistance.

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