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Detection of epidermal growth factor receptor mutation in lung cancer by droplet digital polymerase chain reaction

Authors Qing Xu, Zhu Y, Bai Y, Wei X, Zheng X, Mao M, Zheng G

Received 18 March 2015

Accepted for publication 24 April 2015

Published 22 June 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 1533—1541


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr William Cho

Qing Xu,1,* Yazhen Zhu,2,* Yali Bai,1 Xiumin Wei,1 Xirun Zheng,2 Mao Mao,1 Guangjuan Zheng2

1Translational Bioscience and Diagnostics, WuXi AppTec, Shanghai, 2Department of Pathology, Guangdong Provincial Hospital of TCM, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangdong Provincial Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Background: Two types of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations in exon 19 and exon 21 (ex19del and L858R) are prevalent in lung cancer patients and sensitive to targeted EGFR inhibition. A resistance mutation in exon 20 (T790M) has been found to accompany drug treatment when patients relapse. These three mutations are valuable companion diagnostic biomarkers for guiding personalized treatment. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)-based methods have been widely used in the clinic by physicians to guide treatment decisions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the technical and clinical sensitivity and specificity of the droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) method in detecting the three EGFR mutations in patients with lung cancer.
Methods: Genomic DNA from H1975 and PC-9 cells, as well as 92 normal human blood specimens, was used to determine the technical sensitivity and specificity of the ddPCR assays. Genomic DNA of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens from 78 Chinese patients with lung adenocarcinoma were assayed using both qPCR and ddPCR.
Results: The three ddPCR assays had a limit of detection of 0.02% and a wide dynamic range from 1 to 20,000 copies measurement. The L858R and ex19del assays had a 0% background level in the technical and clinical settings. The T790M assay appeared to have a 0.03% technical background. The ddPCR assays were robust for correct determination of EGFR mutation status in patients, and the dynamic range appeared to be better than qPCR methods. The ddPCR assay for T790M could detect patient samples that the qPCR method failed to detect. About 49% of this patient cohort had EGFR mutations (L858R, 15.4%; ex19del, 29.5%; T790M, 6.4%). Two patients with the ex19del mutation also had a naïve T790M mutation.
Conclusion: These data suggest that the ddPCR method could be useful in the personalized treatment of patients with lung cancer.

Keywords: ddPCR, companion diagnostics, L858R, ex19del, T790M

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