Molecular Profiling in Daily Clinical Practice: Practicalities in Advanced Cholangiocarcinoma and Other Biliary Tract Cancers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Angela Lamarca
  • Zainul Kapacee
  • Michael Breeze
  • Christopher Bell
  • Dean Belcher
  • Helen Staiger
  • Claire Taylor
  • Richard A. Hubner


Background: Molecular profiling is becoming increasingly relevant in the management of patients with advanced cancer; to identify targetable aberrations and prognostic markers to enable a precision medicine strategy. Methods: Eligible patients were those diagnosed with advanced biliary tract cancer (BTC) including intrahepatic (iCCA) and extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (eCCA), gallbladder cancer (GBC), and ampullary carcinoma (Amp) who underwent molecular profiling between April 2017 and June 2020 based on analysis of either tumour samples (FoundationOne CDx®/Oncomine® platforms) or ctDNA (FoundationOne Liquid® platform (Foundation Medicine, Cambridge, MA, USA)). Baseline patient characteristics and molecular profiling outcomes were extracted. The primary aim was to describe sample failure rate. Secondary aims included description of reason for sample failure, summary of findings derived from molecular profiling, and assessment of concordance between paired tissue and ctDNA samples. Results: A total of 149 samples from 104 individual patients diagnosed with advanced BTC were identified and eligible for this analysis: 68.2% iCCA, 100% advanced stage; 94.2% received palliative therapy. The rate of sample failure was 26.8% for tissue and 15.4% for ctDNA; p-value 0.220, predominantly due to insufficient (defined as <20%) tumour content in the sample (the reason for 91.2% of tissue sample failure). Of the 112 samples successfully analysed, pathological molecular findings were identified in the majority of samples (88.4%) and identification of pathological findings using ctDNA, was possible regardless of whether the patient was on active treatment at time of blood acquisition or not (p-value 1.0). The rate of targetable alterations identified was 40.2% across all successfully-analysed samples (39 iCCA; 6 non-iCCA): IDH1 mutations (19.1% of individual patients), FGFR2 alterations (10.1% and 5.6% of individual patients had FGFR2 fusions and mutations, respectively); 10.6% of all patients (12.4% of patients with successfully analysed samples) entered trials with matched targeted therapies as a consequence. Concordance of findings for paired tissue and paired tissue-ctDNA was high (3/3; 100% and 6/6; 100%, respectively). Twelve ctDNA samples were taken prior to palliative treatment initiation, median maximum mutant allele frequency (MAF) was 0.47 (range 0.21–19.8); no significant association between reported maximum MAF and progression-free survival (PFS) or overall survival (OS) (all Cox regression p-values > 0.273). A total of 15 patients (16.6%) harboured alterations in DNA damage repair (DDR) genes; when treated with platinum-based chemotherapy, there was a trend towards increased partial response rate (21.4% vs. 15.9%; p-value 0.653), radiological benefit rate (64.3% vs. 36.2%; p-value 0.071), and longer OS (median OS 20.4 months (95% CI 7.9–26.7) vs. 13.3 (95 CI 11.0–16.4); Cox Regression HR 0.79 (95% CI 0.39–1.61), p-value 0.527). Conclusions: Molecular profiling is of use for identification of novel therapeutic strategies for patients with advanced BTC (mainly iCCA). One in four archived tissue samples may have insufficient tumour content for molecular profiling; ctDNA-based approaches may overcome these obstacles.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2854
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date3 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Sep 2020