Phenotypes from cell-free DNA

Alexis Zukowski, Satyanarayan Rao, Srinivas Ramachandran
Open Biology 2020, 10 (9): 200119
Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) has the potential to enable non-invasive detection of disease states and progression. Beyond its sequence, cfDNA also represents the nucleosomal landscape of cell(s)-of-origin and captures the dynamics of the epigenome. In this review, we highlight the emergence of cfDNA epigenomic methods that assess disease beyond the scope of mutant tumour genotyping. Detection of tumour mutations is the gold standard for sequencing methods in clinical oncology. However, limitations inherent to mutation targeting in cfDNA, and the possibilities of uncovering molecular mechanisms underlying disease, have made epigenomics of cfDNA an exciting alternative. We discuss the epigenomic information revealed by cfDNA, and how epigenomic methods exploit cfDNA to detect and characterize cancer. Future applications of cfDNA epigenomic methods to act complementarily and orthogonally to current clinical practices has the potential to transform cancer management and improve cancer patient outcomes.

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