A Robust Protocol for Using Multiplexed Droplet Digital PCR to Quantify Somatic Copy Number Alterations in Clinical Tissue Specimens.
ABSTRACT: The ability of droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) to accurately determine the concentrations of amplifiable targets makes it a promising platform for measuring copy number alterations (CNAs) in genomic biomarkers. However, its application to clinical samples, particularly formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens, will require strategies to reliably determine CNAs in DNA of limited quantity and quality. When applied to cancerous tissue, those methods must also account for global genetic instability and the associated probability that the abundance(s) of one or more chosen reference loci do not represent the average ploidy of cells comprising the specimen. Here we present an experimental design strategy and associated data analysis tool that enables accurate determination of CNAs in a panel of biomarkers using multiplexed ddPCR. The method includes strategies to optimize primer and probes design to cleanly segregate droplets in the data output from reaction wells amplifying multiple independent templates, and to correct for bias from artifacts such as DNA fragmentation. We demonstrate how a panel of reference loci can be used to determine a stable CNA-neutral benchmark. These innovations, when taken together, provide a comprehensive strategy that can be used to reliably detect biomarker CNAs in DNA extracted from either frozen or FFPE tissue biopsies.
Project description:Copy number alterations (CNAs), a common genomic event during carcinogenesis, are known to affect a large fraction of the genome. Common recurrent gains or losses of specific chromosomal regions occur at frequencies that they may be considered distinctive features of tumoral cells. Here we introduce a novel multiplexed droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assay capable of detecting recurrent CNAs that drive tumorigenesis of oral squamous cell carcinoma. Applied to DNA extracted from oral cell lines and clinical samples of various disease stages, we found good agreement between CNAs detected by our ddPCR assay with those previously reported using comparative genomic hybridization or single nucleotide polymorphism arrays. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the ability to target specific locations of the genome permits detection of clinically relevant oncogenic events such as small, submicroscopic homozygous deletions. Additional capabilities of the multiplexed ddPCR assay include the ability to infer ploidy level, quantify the change in copy number of target loci with high-level gains, and simultaneously assess the status and viral load for high-risk human papillomavirus types 16 and 18. This novel multiplexed ddPCR assay therefore may have clinical value in differentiating between benign oral lesions from those that are at risk of progressing to oral cancer.
Project description:Aberrant DNA methylation is a common epigenetic alteration found in colorectal adenomas and cancers and plays a role in cancer initiation and progression. Aberrantly methylated DNA loci can also be found infrequently present in normal colon tissue, where they seem to have potential to be used as colorectal cancer (CRC) risk biomarkers. However, detection and precise quantification of the infrequent methylation events seen in normal colon is likely beyond the capability of commonly used PCR technologies. To determine the potential for methylated DNA loci as CRC risk biomarkers, we developed MethyLight droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assays and compared their performance to the widely used conventional MethyLight PCR. Our analyses demonstrated the capacity of MethyLight ddPCR to detect a single methylated NTRK3 allele from among more than 3125 unmethylated alleles, 25-fold more sensitive than conventional MethyLight PCR. The MethyLight ddPCR assay detected as little as 19 and 38 haploid genome equivalents of methylated EVL and methylated NTRK3, respectively, which far exceeded conventional MethyLight PCR (379 haploid genome equivalents for both genes). When assessing methylated EVL levels in CRC tissue samples, MethyLight ddPCR reduced coefficients of variation (CV) to 6-65% of CVs seen with conventional MethyLight PCR. Importantly, we showed the ability of MethyLight ddPCR to detect infrequently methylated EVL alleles in normal colon mucosa samples that could not be detected by conventional MethyLight PCR. This study suggests that the sensitivity and precision of methylation detection by MethyLight ddPCR enhances the potential of methylated alleles for use as CRC risk biomarkers.
Project description:Chromosomal instability, as assessed by many techniques, including DNA content aneuploidy, loss of heterozygosity, and comparative genomic hybridization, has consistently been reported to be common in cancer and rare in normal tissues. Recently, a panel of chromosome instability biomarkers, including loss of heterozygosity and DNA content, has been reported to identify patients at high and low risk of progression from Barrett's esophagus (BE) to esophageal adenocarcinoma (EA), but required multiple platforms for implementation. Although chromosomal instability involving amplifications and deletions of chromosome regions have been observed in nearly all cancers, copy number alterations (CNA) in premalignant tissues have not been well characterized or evaluated in cohort studies as biomarkers of cancer risk.We examined CNAs in 98 patients having either BE or EA using Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) array comparative genomic hybridization to characterize CNAs at different stages of progression ranging from early BE to advanced EA.CNAs were rare in early stages (less than high-grade dysplasia) but were progressively more frequent and larger in later stages (high-grade dysplasia and EA), including high-level amplifications. The number of CNAs correlated highly with DNA content aneuploidy. Patients whose biopsies contained CNAs involving >70 Mbp were at increased risk of progression to DNA content abnormalities or EA (hazards ratio, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-14.8; P = 0.0047), and the risk increased as more of the genome was affected.Genome-wide analysis of CNAs provides a common platform for the evaluation of chromosome instability for cancer risk assessment as well as for the identification of common regions of alteration that can be further studied for biomarker discovery.
Project description:Mutations identified in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) predict sensitivity to EGFR-targeted therapy for non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). We previously reported that Electric Field-Induced Release and Measurement (EFIRM)-based liquid biopsy could detect EGFR ctDNA with >94% concordance with tissue-based genotyping. A side-by-side comparison of concordance of EFIRM and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) for the detection of the two front-line actionable EFGR mutations was performed with paired plasma and saliva samples from 13 NSCLC patients. Deep sequencing analysis based on single-strand DNA library preparation was employed to determine the size distributions of EGFR L858R ctDNA in plasma and saliva samples. EFIRM detected both EGFR mutations with 100% sensitivity in both plasma and saliva samples, whereas ddPCR detected EGFR mutations with sensitivities of 84.6% and 15.4%, respectively. In saliva samples, the majority of EGFR L858R ctDNA fragments detected were <80 bp. Deep sequencing analysis of ctDNA enriched for the EGFR L858R mutation revealed the significant presence of EGFR L858R ctDNA as ultra-short circulating tumor DNA (usctDNA) with the size of 40-60 bp in patient plasma and saliva. Most of usctDNAs are not amplifiable with the current ddPCR assay. Further examination using cell lines and patient biofluids revealed that the majority of usctDNAs were predominately localized in the exosomal fraction. Our study revealed the abundant existence of EGFR ctDNA in the plasma and saliva of NSCLC patients is usctDNA. usctDNA is a novel type of targets for liquid biopsy that can be efficiently detected by EFIRM technology.
Project description:Purpose:Ewing Sarcoma (ES) and Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumors (DSRCT) are aggressive sarcomas molecularly characterized by EWSR1 gene fusions. As pathognomonic genomic events in these respective tumor types, EWSR1 fusions represent robust potential biomarkers for disease monitoring. Patients and Methods:To investigate the feasibility of identifying EWSR1 fusions in plasma derived cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from ES and DSRCT patients, we evaluated two complementary approaches in samples from 17 patients with radiographic evidence of disease. The first approach involved identification of patient-specific genomic EWSR1 fusion breakpoints in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor DNA using a broad, hybridization capture-based next generation sequencing (NGS) panel, followed by design of patient-specific droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assays for plasma cfDNA interrogation . The second approach employed a disease-tailored targeted hybridization capture-based NGS panel applied directly to cfDNA which included EWSR1 as well as several other genes with potential prognostic utility. Results:EWSR1 fusions were identified in 11/11 (100%) ES and 5/6 (83%) DSRCT samples by ddPCR, while 10/11 (91%) and 4/6 (67%) were identified by NGS. The ddPCR approach had higher sensitivity, ranging between 0.009-0.018% sensitivity. However, the hybrid capture-based NGS assay identified the precise fusion breakpoints in the majority of cfDNA samples, as well as mutations in TP53 and STAG2, two other recurrent, clinically significant alterations in ES, all without prior knowledge of the tumor sequencing results. Conclusion:These results provide a compelling rationale for an integrated approach utilizing both NGS and ddPCR for plasma cfDNA-based biomarker evaluations in prospective cooperative group studies.
Project description:Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) allows absolute quantification of nucleic acids and has potential for improved non-invasive detection of DNA methylation. For increased precision of the methylation analysis, we aimed to develop a robust internal control for use in methylation-specific ddPCR.Two control design approaches were tested: (a) targeting a genomic region shared across members of a gene family and (b) combining multiple assays targeting different pericentromeric loci on different chromosomes. Through analyses of 34 colorectal cancer cell lines, the performance of the control assay candidates was optimized and evaluated, both individually and in various combinations, using the QX200™ droplet digital PCR platform (Bio-Rad). The best-performing control was tested in combination with assays targeting methylated CDO1, SEPT9, and VIM.A 4Plex panel consisting of EPHA3, KBTBD4, PLEKHF1, and SYT10 was identified as the best-performing control. The use of the 4Plex for normalization reduced the variability in methylation values, corrected for differences in template amount, and diminished the effect of chromosomal aberrations. Positive Droplet Calling (PoDCall), an R-based algorithm for standardized threshold determination, was developed, ensuring consistency of the ddPCR results.Implementation of a robust internal control, i.e., the 4Plex, and an algorithm for automated threshold determination, PoDCall, in methylation-specific ddPCR increase the precision of DNA methylation analysis.
Project description:For the analysis of cancer, there is great interest in rapid and accurate detection of cancer genome amplifications containing oncogenes that are potential therapeutic targets. The vast majority of cancer tissue samples are formalin fixed and paraffin embedded (FFPE) which enables histopathological examination and long term archiving. However, FFPE cancer genomic DNA is oftentimes degraded and generally a poor substrate for many molecular biology assays. To overcome the issues of poor DNA quality from FFPE samples and detect oncogenic copy number amplifications with high accuracy and sensitivity, we developed a novel approach. Our assay requires nanogram amounts of genomic DNA, thus facilitating study of small amounts of clinical samples. Using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR), we can determine the relative copy number of specific genomic loci even in the presence of intermingled normal tissue. We used a control dilution series to determine the limits of detection for the ddPCR assay and report its improved sensitivity on minimal amounts of DNA compared to standard real-time PCR. To develop this approach, we designed an assay for the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 gene (FGFR2) that is amplified in a gastric and breast cancers as well as others. We successfully utilized ddPCR to ascertain FGFR2 amplifications from FFPE-preserved gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas.
Project description:Purpose:BRAF and MEK inhibitors significantly improved the prognosis of metastatic melanoma. Nevertheless, initial treatment response may be only temporary. Liquid biopsies (LB) offer a possibility to monitor patients by measuring circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). We sought to find out whether ctDNA can be used to reliably determine progressive disease under targeted therapy. In addition, we wanted to check whether ctDNA may represent a possible prognostic marker for survival. Patients and Methods:We included 19 melanoma patients with BRAF and MEK inhibitor therapy. For each patient, a 710 gene panel was analyzed on the latest available tumor tissue before the start of therapy. Repetitive LB were collected in which BRAF V600E/K mutations were monitored using digital droplet PCR (ddPCR). We correlated radiological staging results and overall survival with ctDNA results. Results:In 13 patients, ctDNA was detectable when starting targeted therapy, whereas in six patients, ddPCR was always negative, which we confirmed with ultra-deep sequencing. All patients with initially detectable ctDNA had ctDNA values declining to zero during follow-up, increasing again at the time of extracerebral progression or even slightly before detection by imaging. Survival was significantly worse for patients with elevated LDH (p=0.034) or detectable ctDNA (p=0.008) at the start of targeted therapy. Conclusion:Therapy monitoring by ctDNA seems to be a reliable method for detecting extracranial progression, even more sensitive and specific than LDH or S100B. However, due to the small number of cases in our study, further studies are necessary.
Project description:Absolute quantification of mitochondrial DNA copy number (mCN) provides important insights in many fields of research including cancer, cardiovascular and reproductive health. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) natively reports absolute copy number, and we have developed a single-dye, multiplex assay to measure rat mCN that is accurate, precise and affordable. We demonstrate simple methods to optimize this assay and to determine nuclear reference pseudogene copy number to extend the range of mCN that can be measured with this assay. We evaluated two commonly used mitochondrial DNA reference loci to determine mCN, the ND1 gene and the D-Loop. Harnessing the absolute measures of ddPCR, we found that the D-Loop amplifies with a copy number of ~1.0-1.5 relative to other sites on the mitochondrial genome. This anomalous copy number varied significantly between rats and tissues (aorta, brain, heart, liver, soleus muscle). We advocate for avoiding the D-Loop as a mitochondrial reference in future studies of mCN. Further, we report a novel approach to quantifying immunolabelled mitochondrial DNA that provides single-cell estimates of mCN that closely agree with the population analyses by ddPCR. The combination of these assays represents a cost-effective and powerful suite of tools to study mCN.
Project description:Neurological diseases are responsible for approximately 6.8 million deaths every year. They affect up to 1 billion people worldwide and cause significant disability and reduced quality of life. In most neurological disorders, the diagnosis can be challenging; it frequently requires long-term investigation. Thus, the discovery of better diagnostic methods to help in the accurate and fast diagnosis of neurological disorders is crucial. Circulating nucleic acids (CNAs) are defined as any type of DNA or RNA that is present in body biofluids. They can be found within extracellular vesicles or as cell-free DNA and RNA. Currently, CNAs are being explored as potential biomarkers for diseases because they can be obtained using non-invasive methods and may reflect unique characteristics of the biological processes involved in several diseases. CNAs can be especially useful as biomarkers for conditions that involve organs or structures that are difficult to assess, such as the central nervous system. This review presents a critical assessment of the most current literature about the use of plasma and serum CNAs as biomarkers for several aspects of neurological disorders: defining a diagnosis, establishing a prognosis, and monitoring the disease progression and response to therapy. We explored the biological origin, types, and general mechanisms involved in the generation of CNAs in physiological and pathological processes, with specific attention to neurological disorders. In addition, we present some of the future applications of CNAs as non-invasive biomarkers for these diseases.