A scalable solution for tumor mutational burden from formalinfixed, paraffin-embedded samples using the Oncomine Tumor Mutation Load Assay

Ruchi Chaudhary, Luca Quagliata, Jermann Philip Martin, Ilaria Alborelli, Dinesh Cyanam, Vinay Mittal, Warren Tom, Janice Au-Young, Seth Sadis, Fiona Hyland


Background: Tumor mutational burden (TMB) is an increasingly important biomarker for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Recent publications have described strong association between high TMB and objective response to mono- and combination immunotherapies in several cancer types. Existing methods to estimate TMB require large amount of input DNA, which may not always be available.
Methods: In this study, we develop a method to estimate TMB using the Oncomine Tumor Mutation Load (TML) assay with 20 ng of DNA, and we characterize the performance of this method on various formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) research samples of several cancer types. We measure the analytical performance of TML workflow through comparison with control samples with known truth, and we compare performance with an orthogonal method which uses matched normal sample to remove germline variants. We perform whole exome sequencing (WES) on a batch of FFPE samples and compare the WES TMB values with TMB estimates by the TML assay.
Results: In-silico analyses demonstrated the Oncomine TML panel has sufficient genomic coverage to estimate somatic mutations with a strong correlation (r2=0.986) to WES. Further, in silico prediction using WES data from three separate cohorts and comparing with a subset of the WES overlapping with the TML panel, confirmed the ability to stratify responders and non-responders to immune checkpoint inhibitors with high statistical significance. We found the rate of somatic mutations with the TML assay on cell lines and control samples were similar to the known truth. We verified the performance of germline filtering using only a tumor sample in comparison to a matched tumor-normal experimental design to remove germline variants. We compared TMB estimates by the TML assay with that from WES on a batch of FFPE research samples and found high correlation (r2=0.83). We found biologically interesting tumorigenesis signatures on FFPE research samples of colorectal cancer (CRC), lung, and melanoma origin. Further, we assessed TMB on a cohort of FFPE research samples including lung, colon, and melanoma tumors to discover the biologically relevant range of TMB values.
Conclusions: These results show that the TML assay targeting a 1.7-Mb genomic footprint can accurately predict TMB values that are comparable to the WES. The TML assay workflow incorporates a simple workflow using the Ion GeneStudio S5 System. Further, the AmpliSeq chemistry allows the use of low input DNA to estimate mutational burden from FFPE samples. This TMB assay enables scalable, robust research into immuno-oncology biomarkers with scarce samples.