Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for most cancer-related deaths worldwide. Liquid biopsy by a blood draw to detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is a tool for molecular profiling of cancer using single-cell and next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. The aim of the study was to identify somatic variants in single CTCs isolated from NSCLC patients by targeted NGS. Thirty-one subjects (20 NSCLC patients, 11 smokers without cancer) were enrolled for blood draws (7.5 mL). CTCs were identified by immunofluorescence, individually retrieved, and DNA-extracted. Targeted NGS was performed to detect somatic variants (single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and insertions/deletions (Indels)) across 65 oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Cancer-associated variants were classified using OncoKB database. NSCLC patients had significantly higher CTC counts than control smokers (p = 0.0132; Mann–Whitney test). Analyzing 23 CTCs and 13 white blood cells across seven patients revealed a total of 644 somatic variants that occurred in all CTCs within the same subject, ranging from 1 to 137 per patient. The highest number of variants detected in ≥1 CTC within a patient was 441. A total of 18/65 (27.7%) genes were highly mutated. Mutations with oncogenic impact were identified in functional domains of seven oncogenes/tumor suppressor genes (NF1, PTCH1, TP53, SMARCB1, SMAD4, KRAS, and ERBB2). Single CTC-targeted NGS detects heterogeneous and shared mutational signatures within and between NSCLC patients. CTC single-cell genomics have potential for integration in NSCLC precision oncology.
- Circulating tumor cells
- Non-small-cell lung cancer
- Single cell next generation sequencing