Circulating Tumor DNA–Based MRD Assessment in Patients with CLL Treated with Obinutuzumab, Acalabrutinib, and Venetoclax
Clinical Cancer Research, June 2022
Moritz Fürstenau, Jonathan Weiss, Adam Giza, Fabian Franzen, Sandra Robrecht, Anna-Maria Fink, Kirsten Fischer, Christof Schneider, Eugen Tausch, Stephan Stilgenbauer, Matthias Ritgen, Anke Schilhabel, Monika Brüggemann, Barbara Eichhorst, Michael Hallek, Paula Cramer
With the advent of highly efficacious time-limited combination treatments in CLL, minimal residual disease (MRD) assessment has gained importance as a measure for therapeutic success. The currently most widely used method is multicolor flow cytometry, which detects circulating CLL cells in the peripheral blood. However, it seems to be less sensitive for the detection of MRD in the lymph node compartment. To evaluate whether a cell-free approach can overcome this limitation, we performed serial assessments of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in patients with CLL treated with obinutuzumab, acalabrutinib and venetoclax in the CLL2-BAAG trial. Patient-specific VDJ rearrangements as well as somatic driver mutations were tracked before, during and after treatment by digital droplet PCR in blood plasma. Furthermore, these were systematically compared to matched flow cytometry data. In the 381 sample pairs, ctDNA and flow cytometry yielded highly concordant results. However, clone-specific ctDNA was detected in 44 of 152 samples (29%) that were assessed as undetectable MRD by flow cytometry (uMRD, <10-4). Twenty-nine ctDNA-negative samples showed detectable MRD >10-4 by flow cytometry. Somatic driver mutations were detected with a similar sensitivity compared to patient-specific VDJ rearrangements in plasma. In patients with predominantly nodal residual disease, ctDNA compared favorably with flow cytometry and seemed to more accurately reflect the entire disease burden across compartments. Based on these findings, ctDNA-based MRD assessment appears to be a promising method to complement cell-based MRD approaches like flow cytometry that focus on circulating CLL cells in the peripheral blood.
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