A comprehensive characterization of the cell-free transcriptome reveals tissue- and subtype-specific biomarkers for cancer detection
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Cell-free RNA (cfRNA) is a promising analyte for cancer detection. However, a comprehensive assessment of cfRNA in individuals with and without cancer has not been conducted. We performed the first transcriptome-wide characterization of cfRNA in cancer (stage III breast [n=46], lung [n=30]) and non-cancer (n=89) participants from the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (NCT02889978). Of 57,820 annotated genes, 39,564 (68%) were not detected in cfRNA from non-cancer individuals. Within these low-noise regions, we identified tissue- and cancer-specific genes, defined as "dark channel biomarker" (DCB) genes, that were recurrently detected in individuals with cancer. DCB levels in plasma were correlated with tumor shedding rate and RNA expression in matched tissue, suggesting that DCBs with high expression in tumor tissue could enhance cancer detection in patients with low levels of circulating tumor DNA. Overall, cfRNA provides a unique opportunity to detect cancer, predict the tumor tissue of origin, and determine the cancer subtype.
Study Datasets 1 dataset.
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Whole-transcriptome characterization of cfRNA in cancer (stage III breast [n=46], lung [n=30]) and non-cancer (n=89) participants from the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (NCT02889978). Dataset includes collapsed BAM files for plasma cfRNA from each patient, as well as collapsed BAM files for RNA from matched tumor tissue (when available).
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