Circulating tumour DNA methylation markers for diagnosis and prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma

Journal: Nature Materials

Published: 2017-10-09

DOI: 10.1038/nmat4997

Affiliations: 9

Authors: 37

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Research Highlight

A blood test for liver cancer

© Douglas Sacha/Moment/Getty

© Douglas Sacha/Moment/Getty

Early intervention offers a greatly improved prognosis for patients of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer. Diagnosing and monitoring the condition, however, requires CT or ultrasound imaging, or an invasive tissue biopsy. Now, thanks to a biomarker identified by a China-US collaboration, a simple blood test could soon provide clinicians with a quick assessment of a cancer patient’s status and prognosis. 

Kang Zhang, of Sichuan University, China, led a team of US and Chinese researchers to assess whether fragments of tumour-originating DNA that circulate in a cancer patient’s blood, known as ctDNA, could act as a biomarker for hepatocellular carcinoma. ctDNA can be readily assayed for modifications to DNA known as methylation, a mechanism by which tumor suppressor genes are silenced in early cancer development.

Comparing samples from 1,098 hepatocellular carcinoma patients and 835 healthy individuals, the team found that ctDNA methylation patterns are predictive of cancer presence, progression, and prognosis. Methylation testing can be performed via a non-invasive blood test and fulfils a clinical need for an effective ‘liquid biopsy’ HCC screening method.


Supported content

  1. Nature Materials 16, 1155–1161 (2017). doi: 10.1038/nmat4997
Institutions Share
Institute for Genomic Medicine (IGM), UC San Diego, United States of America (USA) 0.25
Moores Cancer Center, UC San Diego, United States of America (USA) 0.25
Molecular Medicine Research Center, WCSM/WCH SCU, China 0.17
State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, SYSUCC, China 0.10
Guangzhou Youze Biological Pharmaceutical Technology Company Ltd., China 0.08
Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology (PSC), SIBS CAS, China 0.05
Xijing Hospital, China 0.05
West China School of Medicine/West China Hospital of Sichuan University (WCSM/WCH), SCU, China 0.03
VA San Diego Healthcare System, United States of America (USA) 0.01