Research ArticleCancer

Mutation tracking in circulating tumor DNA predicts relapse in early breast cancer

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Science Translational Medicine  26 Aug 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 302, pp. 302ra133
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab0021

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Risk of recurrence

Predicting whether a cancer patient will relapse remains a formidable challenge in modern medicine. Fortunately, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) present in the blood may give clues on residual disease—cancer cells left behind to seed new tumors even after treatment. Garcia-Murillas et al. developed a personalized ctDNA assay based on digital polymerase chain reaction to track mutations over time in patients with early-stage breast cancer who had received apparently curative treatments, surgery, and chemotherapy. Mutation tracking in serial samples accurately predicted metastatic relapse—in several instances, months before clinical relapse (median of ~8 months). Such unprecedented early prediction could allow for intervention before the reappearance of cancer in high-risk patients. In addition, the authors were able to shed light on the genetic events driving such metastases, by massively parallel sequencing of the ctDNA, which could inform new drug-based therapies on the basis of the patients’ individual mutations.

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