Table_1_Cell-Free RNA as a Novel Biomarker for Response to Therapy in Head & Neck Cancer.xlsx
Liquid biopsies are gaining more traction as non-invasive tools for the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer. In a new paradigm of cancer treatment, a synergistic botanical drug combination (APG-157) consisting of multiple molecules, is emerging as a new class of cancer therapeutics, targeting multiple pathways and providing a durable clinical response, wide therapeutic window and high level of safety. Monitoring the efficacy of such drugs involves assessing multiple molecules and cellular events simultaneously. We report, for the first time, a methodology that uses circulating plasma cell-free RNA (cfRNA) as a sensitive indicator of patient response upon drug treatment. Plasma was collected from six patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) and four healthy controls receiving three doses of 100 or 200 mg APG-157 or placebo through an oral mucosal route, before treatment and on multiple points post-dosing. Circulating cfRNA was extracted from plasma at 0-, 3- and 24-hours post-treatment, followed by RNA sequencing. We performed comparative analyses of the circulating transcriptome and were able to detect significant perturbation following APG-157 treatment. Transcripts associated with inflammatory response, leukocyte activation and cytokine were upregulated upon treatment with APG-157 in cancer patients, but not in healthy or placebo-treated patients. A platelet-related transcriptional signature could be detected in cancer patients but not in healthy individuals, indicating a platelet-centric pathway involved in the development of HNC. These results from a Phase 1 study are a proof of principle of the utility of cfRNAs as non-invasive circulating biomarkers for monitoring the efficacy of APG-157 in HNC.