Performance characteristics of next-generation sequencing in clinical mutation detection of colorectal cancers

Lisa Haley, Li Hui Tseng, Gang Zheng, Jonathan Dudley, Derek A. Anderson, Nilofer Azad, Christopher Gocke, James Eshleman, Ming-Tseh Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Activating mutations in downstream genes of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway may cause anti-EGFR resistance in patients with colorectal cancers. We present performance characteristics of a next-generation sequencing assay designed to detect such mutations. In this retrospective quality assessment study, we analyzed mutation detected in the KRAS, NRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA genes by a clinically validated next-generation sequencing assay in 310 colorectal cancer specimens. Tumor cellularity and mutant allele frequency were analyzed to identify tumor heterogeneity and mutant allele-specific imbalance. Next-generation sequencing showed precise measurement of mutant allele frequencies and detected 23% of mutations with 2-20% mutant allele frequencies. Of the KRAS mutations detected, 17% were outside of codons 12 and 13. Among PIK3CA mutations, 48% were outside of codons 542, 545, and 1047. The percentage of tumors with predicted resistance to anti-EGFR therapy increased from 40% when testing for only mutations in KRAS exon 2 to 47% when testing for KRAS exons 2-4, 48% when testing for KRAS and NRAS exons 2-4, 58% when including BRAF codon 600 mutations, and 59% when adding PIK3CA exon 20 mutations. Right-sided colorectal cancers carried a higher risk of predicted anti-EGFR resistance. A concomitant KRAS mutation was detected in 51% of PIK3CA, 23% of NRAS, and 33% of kinase-impaired BRAF-mutated tumors. Lower than expected mutant allele frequency indicated tumor heterogeneity, while higher than expected mutant allele frequency indicated mutant allele-specific imbalance. Two paired neuroendocrine carcinomas and adjacent adenomas showed identical KRAS mutations, but only PIK3CA mutations in neuroendocrine carcinomas. Next-generation sequencing is a robust tool for mutation detection in clinical laboratories. It demonstrates high analytic sensitivity and broad reportable range, and it provides simultaneous detection of concomitant mutations and a quantitative measurement of mutant allele frequencies to predict tumor heterogeneity and mutant allele-specific imbalance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1390-1399
Number of pages10
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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