Plasma Circulating Tumor DNA Levels for the Monitoring of Melanoma Patients: Landscape of Available Technologies and Clinical Applications.

Melanoma is a cutaneous cancer with an increasing worldwide prevalence and high mortality due to unresectable or metastatic stages. Mutations in BRAF, NRAS, or KIT are present in more than 60% of melanoma cases, but a useful blood-based biomarker for the clinical monitoring of melanoma patients is still lacking. Thus, the analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and/or cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis from blood (liquid biopsies) appears to be a promising noninvasive, repeatable, and systemic sampling tool for detecting and monitoring melanoma. Here, we review the molecular biology-based strategies used for ctDNA quantification in melanoma patients, as well as their main clinical applications. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) and next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies appear to be two versatile and complementary strategies to study rare variant mutations for the detection and monitoring of melanoma progression. Among the different clinical uses of ctDNA, we highlight the assessment of molecular heterogeneity and the identification of genetic determinants for targeted therapy as well as the analysis of acquired resistance. Importantly, ctDNA quantification might also be a novel biomarker with a prognostic value for melanoma patients.

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