PURPOSE Gene fusions are established oncogenic drivers and emerging therapeutic targets in advanced colorectal cancer. This study aimed to detail the frequencies and clinicopathological features of gene fusions in colorectal cancer using a circulating tumor DNA assay. METHODS Circulating tumor DNA samples in patients with advanced colorectal cancer were analyzed at 4,581 unique time points using a validated plasma-based multigene assay that includes assessment of fusions in FGFR2, FGFR3, RET, ALK, NTRK1, and ROS1. Associations between fusions and clinicopathological features were measured using Fisher's exact test. Relative frequencies of genomic alterations were compared between fusion-present and fusion-absent cases using an unpaired t test. RESULTS Forty-four unique fusions were identified in 40 (1.1%) of the 3,808 patients with circulating tumor DNA detected: RET (n = 6; 36% of all fusions detected), FGFR3 (n = 2; 27%), ALK (n = 10, 23%), NTRK1 (n = 3; 7%), ROS1 (n = 2; 5%), and FGFR2 (n = 1; 2%). Relative to nonfusion variants detected, fusions were more likely to be subclonal (odds ratio, 8.2; 95% CI, 2.94 to 23.00; P,.001). Mutations associated with a previously reported anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (anti-EGFR) therapy resistance signature (subclonal RAS and EGFR mutations) were found with fusions in FGFR3 (10 of 12 patients), RET (nine of 16 patients), and ALK (seven of 10 patients). For the 27 patients with available clinical histories, 21 (78%) had EGFR monoclonal antibody treatment before fusion detection. CONCLUSION Diverse and potentially actionable fusions can be detected using a circulating tumor DNA assay in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Distribution of coexisting subclonal mutations in EGFR, KRAS, and NRAS in a subset of the patients with fusion-present colorectal cancer suggests that these fusions may arise as a novel mechanism of resistance to anti-EGFR therapies in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research