, Volume 4, Issue 1-4, pp 11-21
Date: 30 Jan 2011

Current status and future potential of somatic mutation testing from circulating free DNA in patients with solid tumours

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Genetic alterations can determine the natural history of cancer and its treatment response. With further advances in DNA sequencing technology, multiple novel genetic alterations will be discovered which could be exploited as prognostic, predictive and pharmacodynamic biomarkers in the development and use of cancer therapeutics. As such, the importance in clinical practice of efficient and robust somatic mutation testing in solid tumours cannot be overemphasized in the current era of personalized medicine. However, significant challenges remain regarding the testing of genetic biomarkers in clinical practice. Reliance on archived formalin fixed, paraffin embedded tumour, obtained from diagnostic biopsies, for testing somatic genetic alterations could restrict the scientific community in asking relevant questions about a patient’s cancer biology. Problems inherent with using formalin fixed, archival tissue are well recognized and difficult to resolve. It could be argued that to achieve rapid and efficient incorporation of genetic biomarkers into clinical practice, somatic mutation testing in cancer patients should be simpler, less invasive using a readily available clinical sample, whilst maintaining robustness and reproducibility. In this regard, use of circulating free DNA (cfDNA) from plasma or serum as an alternative and/or additional source of DNA to test cancer specific genetic alterations is an attractive proposition. In light of encouraging results from recent studies, this mini review will discuss the current role and future potential of somatic mutation testing from circulating or cell free DNA derived from the blood of patients with solid tumours.