ESR1 mutations in breast cancer are known as one of the mechanisms of resistance to aromatase inhibitors. These mutations often occur in the hotspot regions in the ligand binding domain (LBD), but comprehensive mutational analysis has shown that mutations are observed throughout the whole LBD. We previously developed a molecular barcode sequencing (MB-NGS) technique to detect ESR1 hotspot mutations in plasma with high sensitivity. In this study, we have developed a multiplex MB-NGS assay that covers the whole LBD of ESR1. The assay demonstrated that the background errors in the plasma DNA of 10 healthy controls were below 0.1%; thus, the limit of detection was set at 0.1%. We analyzed the plasma DNA of 54 patients with estrogen receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer. Seventeen mutations were detected in 13 patients (24%), with variant allele frequencies ranging from 0.13% to 10.67%, including six rare mutations with a variant allele frequency <1.0% and a novel nonhotspot mutation (A312V). Three patients had double mutations located in the same amplicons, and it was revealed that the double mutations were located in different alleles. ESR1 hotspot mutations were associated with a longer duration of aromatase inhibitor treatment under metastatic conditions and to liver metastasis. The multiplex MB-NGS assay is useful for the sensitive and comprehensive detection of mutations throughout the whole LBD of ESR1. Our assay can be applied to any specific target region of interest using tailor-made primers and can result in minimized sequencing volume and cost.Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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