Author(s): Kopreski MS, Benko F, Borys DJ, Khan A
Many cancers are attributed to somatic mutation of DNA. We investigated whether it is feasible to detect cancer-associated somatic mutations in patients with neoplasms by using plasma DNA. METHODS: Plasma samples were prospectively collected from 240 patients undergoing colonoscopy. Colorectal biopsies were performed as clinically indicated in 135 patients, and risk factor information was available from 232 patients. DNA was extracted from plasma and colorectal tissue and was amplified by use of a polymerase chain reaction method that enriches for mutations in codon 12 of the K-ras oncogene. Molecular, histologic, and clinical data were compared by use of two-sided Fisher's exact test. RESULTS: Mutations in the K-ras gene detected in the plasma of 64 (28%) of 232 patients were statistically significantly associated with colorectal cancer risk factors (P =.0002). Of those patients having tissue available for comparison (n = 135), mutations in the K-ras gene were found in the tissues of 35 patients, and 29 (83%) of these 35 showed mutations in plasma samples. In contrast, the plasma assay was negative in 93 of the 100 patients whose tissue K-ras was wild-type. Among patients without biopsies (n = 105), 28 had mutated K-ras in their plasma DNA, despite the absence of remarkable colonoscopy findings; 24 of these 28 patients had risk factors for colorectal cancer. Overall, 25 (39%) of 64 patients showing mutations in plasma DNA had colorectal neoplasms with K-ras mutations compared with five (3%) of 176 patients without K-ras mutations in plasma DNA. CONCLUSION: Plasma DNA assays for the detection of mutations in K-ras codon 12 may provide a feasible method to screen populations for somatic mutations frequently found in neoplasms. The clinical utility of using this test in screening populations requires further study.