The 11th International Symposium on Minimal Residual Cancer was held this month and much of the conference was devoted to new minimally invasive methods for circulating tumor cell enrichment and or the analysis of circulating tumor DNA. Today’s clinical needs are to measure disease burden, track mutations over time, or to detect early resistance and all of these applications require extremely sensitive, robust assays.
Jennifer Doudna is not a cancer biologist and joked that she might deliver her entire lecture at the 2018 AACR Annual Meeting without ever mentioning the word “cancer.” However, when presenting the Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lecture, she told a fascinating story about how curiosity regarding an interesting sequence motif in bacteria led to gene-editing tools, and how investigation of the mechanisms behind those tools may lead to innovative diagnostics for the future.
SeraCare’s new Seraseq™ Circulating Tumor Reference Materials
Clinical genomics laboratories are increasingly looking to liquid biopsy cancer assays to complement their current solid tumor assays. Compared to their solid tumor assay counterparts, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) assays offer a different set of challenges to consider for clinical labs. One of the most important of which, is to develop a set of reagents that are appropriately validated to determine the critical performance of the assay across many parameters. The ctDNA targets of liquid biopsy assays are typically at much lower allelic frequencies and require a robust and reproducibly designed assay to consistently detect these important variants.
Multiplexed Reference Materials as Controls for Cardiomyopathy Diagnostic Next-Generation Sequencing
A Journal for Molecular Diagnostics article describing ‘an attractive addition to the repertoire of materials for the development, validation, and quality monitoring of clinical NGS assays’
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease where the heart muscle is enlarged and a significant cause of sudden cardiac death, and is frequently asymptomatic. HCM is commonly caused by a mutation in one of nine heart muscle genes that comprise the sarcomere, and occurs at a prevalence of about 1 in 500 in the general population. HCM is the leading cause of cardiac death in young athletes in the United States.
Clinical genetic testing for mutations in the HCM-related genes has been ongoing for over a decade; the GeneTest.org database reveals 105 laboratories offering some version of genetic testing. While knowledge of prevalent pathogenic variants are available, the majority of variants remain private (that is, unpublished and not widely available). The move to NGS-based gene panels for HCM testing has lead to new challenges for test development, validation and routine quality control due to the inherent scarcity of samples, the cost of including numerous single mutations from these individual samples, and the lack of these materials for laboratories without a long history of testing.