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Cancer Res. 2012 Jul 15;72(14):3492-8. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-4037. Epub 2012 May 10.

Ultrasensitive measurement of hotspot mutations in tumor DNA in blood using error-suppressed multiplexed deep sequencing.

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Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.


Detection of cell-free tumor DNA in the blood has offered promise as a cancer biomarker, but practical clinical implementations have been impeded by the lack of a sensitive and accurate method for quantitation that is also simple, inexpensive, and readily scalable. Here we present an approach that uses next-generation sequencing to quantify the small fraction of DNA molecules that contain tumor-specific mutations within a background of normal DNA in plasma. Using layers of sequence redundancy designed to distinguish true mutations from sequencer misreads and PCR misincorporations, we achieved a detection sensitivity of approximately 1 variant in 5,000 molecules. In addition, the attachment of modular barcode tags to the DNA fragments to be sequenced facilitated the simultaneous analysis of more than 100 patient samples. As proof-of-principle, we showed the successful use of this method to follow treatment-associated changes in circulating tumor DNA levels in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Our findings suggest that the deep sequencing approach described here may be applied to the development of a practical diagnostic test that measures tumor-derived DNA levels in blood.

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