Liquid biopsy predicts immunotherapy response and toxicity in patients with advanced lung cancer

Dec. 13, 2023
Johns Hopkins research.

Using a “liquid biopsy” to study genetic material from tumors shed into the bloodstream together with immune cells could help clinicians predict which patients with advanced lung cancers are responding to immunotherapies and which patients may develop immune-related side effects several months later, according to research directed by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh.

By monitoring changes in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) among 30 patients treated with immunotherapies for metastatic non-small cell lung cancers, the researchers were able to determine molecular response — the clearance of tumor genetic material in the bloodstream — which was significantly associated with progression-free and overall survival. Serial blood testing was also able to detect an expansion of T cells — immune cells that typically recognize and target foreign or non-self molecules on tumor cells — in patients with immune-related adverse events such as lung tissue inflammation as early as five months ahead of the emergence of clinical symptoms. Similar results were seen in an independent cohort of 49 patients with advanced lung cancers enrolled at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute.

These results were published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research on Nov. 8, 2023.

Johns Hopkins release