Background Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer that is most difficult to treat due to the absence of hormone/growth factor receptors.1 2 Metastatic TNBC (mTNBC) is particularly challenging, given the limited efficacy and duration of response to chemotherapy.3 The repertoire of therapeutic options for mTNBC patients continues to increase with chemotherapeutic and immuno oncology based treatments and now includes sacituzumab govitecan, a novel antibody-chemotherapy conjugate.4
Methods Here we present a case study of a 40-year-old female who on biopsy of her left breast mass was diagnosed with TNBC. The patient underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy with weekly administration of paclitaxel and carboplatin followed by dose-dense doxorubicin with cyclophosphamide. Following one-month, the patient underwent bilateral mastectomy, showing pathological staging ypT2 pN0. The patient underwent periodic radiological imaging along with the assessment of circulating tumor DNA in blood using a personalized and tumor-informed multiplex PCR, next-generation sequencing assay (Signatera bespoke, mPCR NGS assay) to identify the minimal residual disease (MRD) and treatment response.
Results After surgery, MRD assessment revealed ctDNA positive status (0.41 MTM/mL) prompting PET/CT scan that revealed liver metastasis. Continued ctDNA monitoring showed continuous increase in ctDNA concentration (287.09 MTM/mL). Separate analyses indicated MSI-high and PD-L1 positive tumor status, leading to the initiation of the first line of therapy (nab-paclitaxel and Atezolizumab), which resulted in ctDNA decline (39.62 MTM/ml). Weekly ctDNA monitoring noted a rapid increase a month later (178 MTM/ml to 833.69 MTM/ml) within a 2-week interval, which corresponded to disease progression on imaging. Given non-responsiveness with the first-line therapy, the patient was initiated with sacituzumab govitecan. Following this, a rapid decline in the ctDNA level was observed within a week (364.07 MTM/mL) with a downward trend to 73.03 MTM/ml by two weeks. An interval PET/CT scan showed a mixed response. Continued monitoring of ctDNA demonstrated ctDNA levels <5MTM/mL for a period of two months before serially rising again (to 89.27 MTM/ml). PET-CT ordered in response to increasing ctDNA levels confirmed progression involving hepatic and lung lesions. A new line of therapy with nivolumab and ipilimumab was subsequently initiated.
Conclusions Serial monitoring of ctDNA enables early detection of therapy resistance and provides a rationale for treatment change/optimization/discontinuation as compared to periodic imaging that is currently the standard of care. The ease and convenience of using ctDNA-based testing as frequently as every week clearly identified earlier non-responsiveness to IO and also identified earlier acquired resistance to antibody-drug conjugate, enabling a prompt switch to alternative therapy.
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