BACKGROUND: The sensitive detection of recurrent colorectal cancer (CRC) by the measurement of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) might improve the chance of a cure. This study compared a quantitative methylated ctDNA test with carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) in the setting of surveillance for recurrence. METHODS: Blood samples collected either during surveillance or within 12 months of the confirmation of recurrence were assayed for ctDNA (methylated branched-chain amino acid transaminase 1 [BCAT1]/Ikaros family zinc-finger 1 protein [IKZF1]) and CEA. The optimal ctDNA threshold was determined by receiver operating characteristic analysis, and the test performance for the detection of recurrence was compared with CEA (5 ng/mL threshold). RESULTS: The study cohort comprised 144 eligible patients and included 50 recurrence events. The sensitivity of the methylated ctDNA test for recurrence was 66.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 57.1%-69.3%), which was significantly higher than the sensitivity of CEA (31.9%; 95% CI, 22.8%-36.6%; P <.001). The sensitivity for resectable recurrence (n = 20) was also higher (ctDNA, 60.0%; CEA, 20.0%; P =.01). The specificity did not differ between the tests (ctDNA, 97.9%; 95% CI, 93.2%-99.6%; CEA, 96.4%; 95% CI, 91.4%-99.0%). When adjustments were made for other predictors of the presence of recurrence, a positive ctDNA test was an independent predictor (odds ratio, 155.7; 95% CI, 17.9-1360.6; P <.001), whereas CEA was not (odds ratio, 2.5; 95% CI, 0.3-20.6; P =.407). CONCLUSIONS: The quantitative ctDNA test showed superior sensitivity in comparison with CEA without a difference in the specificity for detecting recurrent CRC. Longitudinal studies are warranted to further assess the utility (specifically the survival benefit) of methylated BCAT1/IKZF1 ctDNA in the surveillance of patients with CRC.
- blood test
- branched-chain amino acid transaminase 1 (BCAT1)
- circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA)
- colorectal cancer
- Ikaros family zinc-finger 1 protein (IKZF1)