Sensitive screening of single nucleotide polymorphisms in cell free DNA for diagnosis of gestational tumours

G. J. Maher et al. (2022) NPJ Medicine, 7(26), pp. 1-8.

Nonacus Products: Cell3 Target: Oncology



Tumours expressing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the majority of  which are difficult to biopsy due to their vascularity, have disparate prognoses depending on their origin. As optimal management relies on accurate diagnosis, we aimed to develop a sensitive cell free DNA (cfDNA) assay to non-invasively distinguish between cases of gestational and non-gestational origin. Deep error-corrected Illumina sequencing of 195 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in cfDNA and matched genomic DNA from 36 patients with hCG-secreting tumours (serum hCG 5 to 3,042,881 IU/L) and 7 controls with normal hCG levels (≤4 IU/L) was performed. cfDNA from confirmed gestational tumours with hCG levels ranging from 1497 to 700,855 IU/L had multiple (n ≥ 12) ‘non-host’ alleles (i.e. alleles of paternal origin). In such cases the non-host fraction of cfDNA ranged from 0.3 to 40.4% and correlated with serum hCG levels. At lower hCG levels the ability to detect non-host cfDNA was variable, with the detection limit dependent on the type of causative pregnancy. Patients with non-gestational tumours were identifiable by the absence of non-host cfDNA, with copy number alterations detectable in the majority of cases. Following validation in a larger cohort, our sensitive assay will enable clinicians to better inform patients, for whom biopsy is inappropriate, of their prognosis and provide optimum management.