, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 439-448
Date: 01 Nov 2013

Role of quantitative and qualitative characteristics of free circulating DNA in the management of patients with non-small cell lung cancer

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Abstract

Background

The release of DNA into peripheral blood is a common event in cancer patients, occurring as a consequence of necrotic and apoptotic processes typical of tumor cells. However, free circulating DNA (fcDNA) is also present in patients with benign diseases and in healthy individuals. Both quantitative and qualitative aspects of fcDNA have been studied as potential biomarkers in a number of tumor types. In particular, quantitative analysis of fcDNA has been shown to play an important role in the diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), because of its ability to discriminate between healthy subjects and individuals with NSCLC. Additionally, fcDNA in cancer patients derives predominantly from tumor tissue and, as such, it can be used for the molecular characterization of the primary tumor. Targeted therapies in NSCLC have, in recent years, produced promising results, highlighting the importance of molecular profiling of the primary cancer lesions. Considering that little or no tumor material is available for at least some of the patients, the possibility of using fcDNA for molecular analysis becomes increasingly important. In the present review we evaluated several quantitative and qualitative aspects of fcDNA that could be instrumental for the differential diagnosis of lung disease.

Conclusions

There is ample evidence in the literature to support the possible use of peripheral blood-derived fcDNA in the early diagnosis and molecular characterization of lung cancer. This non-invasive method may also turn out to be valuable in monitoring drug response and in identifying induced mechanisms of drug resistance. Before it can be implemented in routine clinical practice, however, additional efforts are needed to standardize the methodology.