Detection of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can be limited due to their relative scarcity in circulation, particularly while patients are actively undergoing therapy. Exosomes provide a vehicle through which cancer-specific material can be enriched from the compendium of circulating non-neoplastic tissue-derived nucleic acids. Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center performed a comprehensive profiling of the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) exosomal “surfaceome” in order to identify surface proteins that will render liquid biopsies amenable to cancer-derived exosome enrichment for downstream molecular profiling.
Surface exosomal proteins were profiled in 13 human PDAC and 2 non-neoplastic cell lines by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. A total of 173 prospectively collected blood samples from 103 PDAC patients underwent exosome isolation. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) was used on 74 patients (136 total exosome samples) to determine baseline KRAS mutation call rates while patients were on therapy. PDAC-specific exosome capture was then performed on additional 29 patients (37 samples) using an antibody cocktail directed against selected proteins, followed by ddPCR analysis. Exosomal DNA in a PDAC patient resistant to therapy were profiled using a molecular barcoded, targeted sequencing panel to determine the utility of enriched nucleic acid material for comprehensive molecular analysis.<
Proteomic analysis of the exosome “surfaceome” revealed multiple PDAC specific biomarker candidates: CLDN4, EPCAM, CD151, LGALS3BP, HIST2H2BE and HIST2H2BF. KRAS mutations in total exosomes were detected in 44.1% of patients undergoing active therapy compared to 73.0% following exosome capture using the selected biomarkers. Enrichment of exosomal cargo was amenable to molecular profiling, elucidating a putative mechanism of resistance to PARP inhibitor therapy in a patient harboring a BRCA2 mutation.
Exosomes provide unique opportunities in the context of liquid biopsies for enrichment of tumor-specific material in circulation. The researchers present a comprehensive surfaceome characterization of PDAC exosomes which allows for capture and molecular profiling of tumor-derived DNA.