Cancer Detection and Classification by CpG Island Hypermethylation Signatures in Plasma Cell-Free DNA

Huang J, Soupir AC, Schlick BD, Teng M, Sahin IH, Permuth JB, Siegel EM, Manley BJ, Pellini B, Wang L.

Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) methylation has emerged as a promising biomarker for early cancer detection, tumor type classification, and treatment response monitoring. Enrichment-based cfDNA methylation profiling methods such as cfMeDIP-seq have shown high accuracy in the classification of multiple cancer types. We have previously optimized another enrichment-based approach for ultra-low input cfDNA methylome profiling, termed cfMBD-seq. We reported that cfMBD-seq outperforms cfMeDIP-seq in the enrichment of high-CpG-density regions, such as CpG islands. However, the clinical feasibility of cfMBD-seq is unknown. In this study, we applied cfMBD-seq to profiling the cfDNA methylome using plasma samples from cancer patients and non-cancer controls. We identified 1759, 1783, and 1548 differentially hypermethylated CpG islands (DMCGIs) in lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer patients, respectively. Interestingly, the vast majority of DMCGIs were overlapped with aberrant methylation changes in corresponding tumor tissues, indicating that DMCGIs detected by cfMBD-seq were mainly driven by tumor-specific DNA methylation patterns. From the overlapping DMCGIs, we carried out machine learning analyses and identified a set of discriminating methylation signatures that had robust performance in cancer detection and classification. Overall, our study demonstrates that cfMBD-seq is a powerful tool for sensitive detection of tumor-derived epigenomic signals in cfDNA.

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November, 2021


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