Ultrasensitive circulating tumor DNA analysis enables precision medicine: experimental workflow considerations. Andersson D, Kristiansson H, Kubista M, Ståhlberg A. Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2021 Mar 8:1-12. doi: 10.1080/14737159.2021.1889371.
Introduction: Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) has become a relevant biomarker in cancer management, allowing tumor assessment through analysis of minimally invasive liquid biopsies. Applications include screening, diagnostics, monitoring of treatment efficacy and detection of minimal residual disease as well as relapse. The potential of ctDNA analysis is significant, but several biological and technical challenges need to be addressed before widespread clinical implementation.
Areas covered: Several clinical applications where ctDNA analysis may be beneficial require detection of individual DNA molecules. Consequently, to acquire accurate and informative data the entire workflow from sampling to final data interpretation needs to be optimized. In this review, we discuss the biological and technical challenges of ctDNA analysis and how preanalytical and analytical approaches affect different cancer applications.
Expert opinion: While numerous studies have demonstrated the potential of using ctDNA in cancer applications, yet few reports about true clinical utility exist. Despite encouraging data, the sensitivity of ctDNA analyses, i.e. the probability to detect presence of cancer in liquid biopsies, is still an issue. Analysis of multiple mutations in combination with simultaneous assessment of other analytes is one solution. Improved standardization and guidelines will also facilitate the introduction of ctDNA analysis into clinical routine.
Overview over the ctDNA analytical workflow. The schematic overview illustrates dependencies between study design and experimental choices