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Somatic copy number alteration and fragmentation analysis in circulating tumor DNA for cancer screening and treatment monitoring in colorectal cancer patients

Background: Analysis of circulating free DNA (cfDNA) is a promising tool for personalized management of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. Untargeted cfDNA analysis using whole-genome sequencing (WGS) does not need a priori knowledge of the patient´s mutation profile. Methods: Here we established LIquid biopsy Fragmentation, Epigenetic signature and Copy Number Alteration analysis (LIFE-CNA) using WGS with ~6x coverage for detection of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in CRC patients as a marker for CRC detection and monitoring. Results: We describe the analytical validity and a clinical proof-of-concept of LIFE-CNA using a total of 259 plasma samples collected from 50 patients with stage I-IV CRC and 61 healthy controls. To reliably distinguish CRC patients from healthy controls, we determined cutoffs for the detection of ctDNA based on global and regional cfDNA fragmentation patterns, transcriptionally active chromatin sites, and SCNAs. We further combined global and regional fragmentation pattern into a machine learning classifier to accurately predict ctDNA for cancer detection. By following individual patients throughout their course of disease, we show that LIFE-CNA enables the reliable prediction of response or resistance to treatment up to 3.5 months before commonly used CEA. Conclusion: In summary, we developed and validated a sensitive and cost-effective method for untargeted ctDNA detection at diagnosis as well as for treatment monitoring of all CRC patients based on genetic as well as non-genetic tumor-specific cfDNA features. Thus, once sensitivity and specificity have been externally validated, LIFE-CNA has the potential to be implemented into clinical practice. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to consider multiple genetic and non-genetic cfDNA features in combination with ML classifiers and to evaluate their potential in both cancer detection and treatment monitoring.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001009309 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 354
Publications Citations
Somatic copy number alteration and fragmentation analysis in circulating tumor DNA for cancer screening and treatment monitoring in colorectal cancer patients.
J Hematol Oncol 15: 2022 125
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