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      Methylated circulating tumor DNA in blood: power in cancer prognosis and response


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          Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in the plasma or serum of cancer patients provides an opportunity for non-invasive sampling of tumor DNA. This ‘liquid biopsy’ allows for interrogations of DNA such as quantity, chromosomal alterations, sequence mutations and epigenetic changes, and can be used to guide and improve treatment throughout the course of the disease. This tremendous potential for real-time ‘tracking’ in a cancer patient has led to substantial research efforts in the ctDNA field. ctDNA can be distinguished from non-tumor DNA by the presence of tumor-specific mutations and copy number variations, and also by aberrant DNA methylation, with both DNA sequence and methylation changes corresponding to those found in the tumor. Aberrant methylation of specific promoter regions can be a very consistent feature of cancer, in contrast to mutations, which typically occur at a wide range of sites. This consistency makes ctDNA methylation amenable to the design of widely applicable clinical assays. In this review, we examine ctDNA methylation in the context of monitoring disease status, treatment response and determining the prognosis of cancer patients.

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          Circulating mutant DNA to assess tumor dynamics.

          The measurement of circulating nucleic acids has transformed the management of chronic viral infections such as HIV. The development of analogous markers for individuals with cancer could similarly enhance the management of their disease. DNA containing somatic mutations is highly tumor specific and thus, in theory, can provide optimum markers. However, the number of circulating mutant gene fragments is small compared to the number of normal circulating DNA fragments, making it difficult to detect and quantify them with the sensitivity required for meaningful clinical use. In this study, we applied a highly sensitive approach to quantify circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in 162 plasma samples from 18 subjects undergoing multimodality therapy for colorectal cancer. We found that ctDNA measurements could be used to reliably monitor tumor dynamics in subjects with cancer who were undergoing surgery or chemotherapy. We suggest that this personalized genetic approach could be generally applied to individuals with other types of cancer.
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            Causal relationship between the loss of RUNX3 expression and gastric cancer.

            Runx3/Pebp2alphaC null mouse gastric mucosa exhibits hyperplasias due to stimulated proliferation and suppressed apoptosis in epithelial cells, and the cells are resistant to growth-inhibitory and apoptosis-inducing action of TGF-beta, indicating that Runx3 is a major growth regulator of gastric epithelial cells. Between 45% and 60% of human gastric cancer cells do not significantly express RUNX3 due to hemizygous deletion and hypermethylation of the RUNX3 promoter region. Tumorigenicity of human gastric cancer cell lines in nude mice was inversely related to their level of RUNX3 expression, and a mutation (R122C) occurring within the conserved Runt domain abolished the tumor-suppressive effect of RUNX3, suggesting that a lack of RUNX3 function is causally related to the genesis and progression of human gastric cancer.
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              Predominant hematopoietic origin of cell-free DNA in plasma and serum after sex-mismatched bone marrow transplantation.

              Despite current interest in the biology and diagnostic applications of cell-free DNA in plasma and serum, the cellular origin of this DNA is poorly understood. We used a sex-mismatched bone marrow transplantation model to study the relative contribution of hematopoietic and nonhematopoietic cells to circulating DNA. We studied 22 sex-mismatched bone marrow transplantation patients. Paired buffy coat and plasma samples were obtained from all 22 patients. Matching serum samples were also obtained from seven of them. Plasma DNA, serum DNA, and buffy coat were quantified by real-time PCR of the SRY and beta-globin gene DNA. To investigate the effects of blood drawing and other preanalytical variables on plasma DNA concentrations, blood samples were also collected from 14 individuals who had not received transplants. The effects of blood sampling by syringe and needle, centrifugation, and time delay in blood processing were studied. The median percentage of Y-chromosome DNA in the plasma in female patients receiving bone marrow from male donors (59.5%) differed significantly (P <0.001) from that in the male patients receiving bone marrow from female donors (6.9%). This indicated that plasma DNA in the bone marrow transplantation recipients was predominantly of donor origin. Compared with paired plasma samples, serum samples had a median 14-fold higher DNA concentration, with the additional DNA being of donor origin. Control experiments indicated that none of the three tested preanalytical variables contributed to a significant change in cell-free DNA concentration. After bone marrow transplantation, the DNA in plasma and serum is predominantly hematopoietic in origin. Apart from the biological implications of this observation, this finding suggests that plasma and serum can be used as alternative materials for the study of postbone marrow transplantation chimerism.

                Author and article information

                Endocr Relat Cancer
                Endocr. Relat. Cancer
                Endocrine-Related Cancer
                Bioscientifica Ltd (Bristol )
                March 2016
                13 January 2016
                : 23
                : 3
                : R157-R171
                [1 ]Garvan Institute of Medical Research, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and St Vincent's Clinical School , 370 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, 2010, Australia
                [2 ]Chris O'Brien Lifehouse , Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence should be addressed to G Samimi g.samimi@ 123456garvan.org.au
                © 2016 The authors

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

                : 6 January 2016
                : 13 January 2016

                Oncology & Radiotherapy
                cancer,prognosis,circulating dna,plasma dna,methylation
                Oncology & Radiotherapy
                cancer, prognosis, circulating dna, plasma dna, methylation


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