Combining the amplification refractory mutation system and high-resolution melting analysis for KRAS mutation detection in clinical samples

Beatriz B. Oliveira, Beatriz Costa, Bárbara Morão, Sandra Faias, Bruno Veigas, Lucília Pebre Pereira, Cristina Albuquerque, Rui Maio, Marília Cravo, Alexandra R. Fernandes, Pedro Viana Baptista

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The success of personalized medicine depends on the discovery of biomarkers that allow oncologists to identify patients that will benefit from a particular targeted drug. Molecular tests are mostly performed using tumor samples, which may not be representative of the tumor’s temporal and spatial heterogeneity. Liquid biopsies, and particularly the analysis of circulating tumor DNA, are emerging as an interesting means for diagnosis, prognosis, and predictive biomarker discovery. In this study, the amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS) coupled with high-resolution melting analysis (HRMA) was developed for detecting two of the most relevant KRAS mutations in codon 12. After optimization with commercial cancer cell lines, KRAS mutation screening was validated in tumor and plasma samples collected from patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and the results were compared to those obtained by Sanger sequencing (SS) and droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR). The developed ARMS-HRMA methodology stands out for its simplicity and reduced time to result when compared to both SS and ddPCR but showing high sensitivity and specificity for the detection of mutations in tumor and plasma samples. In fact, ARMS-HRMA scored 3 more mutations compared to SS (tumor samples T6, T7, and T12) and one more compared to ddPCR (tumor sample T7) in DNA extracted from tumors. For ctDNA from plasma samples, insufficient genetic material prevented the screening of all samples. Still, ARMS-HRMA allowed for scoring more mutations in comparison to SS and 1 more mutation in comparison to ddPCR (plasma sample P7). We propose that ARMS-HRMA might be used as a sensitive, specific, and simple method for the screening of low-level mutations in liquid biopsies, suitable for improving diagnosis and prognosis schemes. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2849-2863
Number of pages15
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Circulating tumor DNA
  • Mutation detection
  • Pancreatic cancer


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