Targeted capture-based NGS is superior to multiplex PCR-based NGS for hereditary BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene analysis in FFPE tumor samples

Falk Zakrzewski*, Laura Gieldon, Andreas Rump, Michael Seifert, Konrad Grützmann, Alexander Krüger, Sina Loos, Silke Zeugner, Karl Hackmann, Joseph Porrmann, Johannes Wagner, Karin Kast, Pauline Wimberger, Gustavo Baretton, Evelin Schröck, Daniela Aust, Barbara Klink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: With the introduction of Olaparib treatment for BRCA-deficient recurrent ovarian cancer, testing for somatic and/or germline mutations in BRCA1/2 genes in tumor tissues became essential for treatment decisions. In most cases only formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples, containing fragmented and chemically modified DNA of minor quality, are available. Thus, multiplex PCR-based sequencing is most commonly applied in routine molecular testing, which is predominantly focused on the identification of known hot spot mutations in oncogenes. Methods: We compared the overall performance of an adjusted targeted capture-based enrichment protocol and a multiplex PCR-based approach for calling of pathogenic SNVs and InDels using DNA extracted from 13 FFPE tissue samples. We further applied both strategies to seven blood samples and five matched FFPE tumor tissues of patients with known germline exon-spanning deletions and gene-wide duplications in BRCA1/2 to evaluate CNV detection based solely on panel NGS data. Finally, we analyzed DNA from FFPE tissues of 11 index patients from families suspected of having hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, of whom no blood samples were available for testing, in order to identify underlying pathogenic germline BRCA1/2 mutations. Results: The multiplex PCR-based protocol produced inhomogeneous coverage among targets of each sample and between samples as well as sporadic amplicon drop out, leading to insufficiently or non-covered nucleotides, which subsequently hindered variant detection. This protocol further led to detection of PCR-artifacts that could easily have been misinterpreted as pathogenic mutations. No such limitations were observed by application of an adjusted targeted capture-based protocol, which allowed for CNV calling with 86% sensitivity and 100% specificity. All pathogenic CNVs were confirmed in the five matched FFPE tumor samples from patients carrying known pathogenic germline mutations and we additionally identified somatic loss of the second allele in BRCA1/2. Furthermore we detected pathogenic BRCA1/2 variants in four the eleven FFPE samples from patients of whom no blood was available for analysis. Conclusions: We demonstrate that an adjusted targeted capture-based enrichment protocol is superior to commonly applied multiplex PCR-based protocols for reliable BRCA1/2 variant detection, including CNV-detection, using FFPE tumor samples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number396
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • BRCA1
  • BRCA2
  • CNV detection
  • FFPE tissue
  • Genetic testing
  • HBOC
  • NGS
  • Pathogenic germline mutations
  • Targeted capture-based NGS


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