The low abundance of Hodgkin/Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells in lymph node biopsies in classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) complicates the analysis of somatic genetic alterations in HRS cells. As circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) contains circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) from HRS cells, we prospectively collected cfDNA from 177 patients with newly diagnosed, mostly early-stage cHL in a monocentric study at Leuven, Belgium (n=59) and the multicentric BREACH study by Lymphoma Study Association (n=118). To catalogue the patterns and frequencies of genomic copy number aberrations (CNAs), cfDNA was sequenced at low coverage (0.26×), and data were analysed with ichorCNA to yield read depth-based copy number profiles and estimated clonal fractions in cfDNA. At diagnosis, the cfDNA concentration, estimated clonal fraction, and ctDNA concentration were significantly higher in cHL cases than controls. More than 90% of patients exhibited CNAs in cfDNA. The most frequent gains encompassed 2p16 (69%), 5p14 (50%), 12q13 (50%), 9p24 (50%), 5q (44%), 17q (43%), 2q (41%). Losses mostly affected 13q (57%), 6q25–q27 (55%), 4q35 (50%), 11q23 (44%), 8p21 (43%). In addition, we identified loss of 3p13–p26 and of 12q21–q24 and gain of 15q21–q26 as novel recurrent CNAs in cHL. At diagnosis, ctDNA concentration was associated with advanced disease, male sex, extensive nodal disease, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate, metabolic tumour volume, and HRS cell burden. CNAs and ctDNA rapidly diminished upon treatment initiation, and persistence of CNAs was associated with increased probability of relapse. This study endorses the development of ctDNA as gateway to the HRS genome and substrate for early disease response evaluation.

(BELG J HEMATOL 2023;14(4):183–5)