Refined characterization of circulating tumor DNA through biological feature integration.

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Markus, Havell 
Chandrananda, Dineika 
Moore, Elizabeth 
Mouliere, Florent 
Morris, James 

Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in blood plasma is present at very low concentrations compared to cell-free DNA (cfDNA) of non-tumor origin. To enhance ctDNA detection, recent studies have been focused on understanding the non-random fragmentation pattern of cfDNA. These studies have investigated fragment sizes, genomic position of fragment end points, and fragment end motifs. Although these features have been described and shown to be aberrant in cancer patients, there is a lack of understanding of how the individual and integrated analysis of these features enrich ctDNA fraction and enhance ctDNA detection. Using whole genome sequencing and copy number analysis of plasma samples from 5 high grade serious ovarian cancer patients, we observed that (1) ctDNA is enriched not only in fragments shorter than mono-nucleosomes (~ 167 bp), but also in those shorter than di-nucleosomes (~ 240-330 bp) (28-159% enrichment). (2) fragments that start and end at the border or within the nucleosome core are enriched in ctDNA (5-46% enrichment). (3) certain DNA motifs conserved in regions 10 bp up- and down- stream of fragment ends (i.e. cleavage sites) could be used to detect tumor-derived fragments (10-44% enrichment). We further show that the integrated analysis of these three features resulted in a higher enrichment of ctDNA when compared to using fragment size alone (additional 7-25% enrichment after fragment size selection). We believe these genome wide features, which are independent of genetic mutational changes, could allow new ways to analyze and interpret cfDNA data, as significant aberrations of these features from a healthy state could improve its utility as a diagnostic biomarker.

Biomarkers, Tumor, Case-Control Studies, Circulating Tumor DNA, Female, Gene Dosage, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Neoplasm Grading, Ovarian Neoplasms, Phenotype, Predictive Value of Tests, Whole Genome Sequencing
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Nature Publishing Group
European Research Council (337905)
Cancer Research UK (C14303/A17197)
National Institute for Health and Care Research (IS-BRC-1215-20014)
This study was supported by grants from CRUK Cambridge Institute (Core Grant, A29580) and by a funding from the ERC under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement n. 337905