Longitudinal monitoring of patients with advanced cancers is crucial to evaluate both disease burden and treatment response. Current liquid biopsy approaches mostly rely on the detection of DNA-based biomarkers. However, plasma RNA analysis can unleash tremendous opportunities for tumor state interrogation and molecular subtyping. Through the application of deep learning algorithms to the deconvolved transcriptomes of RNA within plasma extracellular vesicles (evRNA), we successfully predicted consensus molecular subtypes in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Analysis of plasma evRNA also enabled monitoring of changes in transcriptomic subtype under treatment selection pressure and identification of molecular pathways associated with recurrence. This approach also revealed expressed gene fusions and neoepitopes from evRNA. These results demonstrate the feasibility of using transcriptomic-based liquid biopsy platforms for precision oncology approaches, spanning from the longitudinal monitoring of tumor subtype changes to the identification of expressed fusions and neoantigens as cancer-specific therapeutic targets, sans the need for tissue-based sampling.

Significance:

The development of an approach to interrogate molecular subtypes, cancer-associated pathways, and differentially expressed genes through RNA sequencing of plasma extracellular vesicles lays the foundation for liquid biopsy–based longitudinal monitoring of patient tumor transcriptomes.

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