Leveraging extrachromosomal DNA to fine-tune trials of targeted therapy for glioblastoma: opportunities and challenges


Glioblastoma evolution is facilitated by intratumour heterogeneity, which poses a major hurdle to effective treatment. Evidence indicates a key role for oncogene amplification on extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) in accelerating tumour evolution and thus resistance to treatment, particularly in glioblastomas. Oncogenes contained within ecDNA can reach high copy numbers and expression levels, and their unequal segregation can result in more rapid copy number changes in response to therapy than is possible through natural selection of intrachromosomal genomic loci. Notably, targeted therapies inhibiting oncogenic pathways have failed to improve glioblastoma outcomes. In this Perspective, we outline reasons for this disappointing lack of clinical translation and present the emerging evidence implicating ecDNA as an important driver of tumour evolution. Furthermore, we suggest that through detection of ecDNA, patient selection for clinical trials of novel agents can be optimized to include those most likely to benefit based on current understanding of resistance mechanisms. We discuss the challenges to successful translation of this approach, including accurate detection of ecDNA in tumour tissue with novel technologies, development of faithful preclinical models for predicting the efficacy of novel agents in the presence of ecDNA oncogenes, and understanding the mechanisms of ecDNA formation during cancer evolution and how they could be attenuated therapeutically. Finally, we evaluate the feasibility of routine ecDNA characterization in the clinic and how this process could be integrated with other methods of molecular stratification to maximize the potential for clinical translation of precision medicines.

Journal details

Volume 19
Issue number 11
Pages 733-743
Available online
Publication date