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Dana-Farber Scientists Find Biomarker for Kidney Cancer

Mary Caffrey
A coauthor of the study said that if the noninvasive test was used more widely, before kidney cancers have spread, fewer people would die from the disease.
Scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have developed a liquid biopsy that screens for kidney cancer, including hard-to-find localized tumors that can elude early detection, according to a statement.

A report on the biomarker, appearing this week in Nature Medicine, calls for validating the test in larger trials. A coauthor of the study said that if the noninvasive test was used more widely, before kidney cancers have spread, fewer people would die from the disease.

"Hopefully we can scale this to a much larger level and detect cancer earlier so we can act earlier," said Toni Choueiri, MD, director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber, in the statement.

The test is called cfMeDIP-seq, which stands for “cell-free methylated DNA immunoprecipitation and high-throughput sequencing.” The biopsy method works differently from others by detecting methylation, in which chemical signals attach to DNA, altering or perhaps silencing activity.

Researchers ran tests on 99 patients with early and advanced kidney cancer, 15 patients with stage IV urothelial bladder cancer, and 28 healthy control subjects who did not have cancer. They reported that blood serum samples showed “near perfect” classification across all stages of kidney cancer. Urine-based testing was not accurate; however, the research group believes that technical changes can improve the accuracy.

Liquid biopsies, which detect cancer-related markers or DNA in blood or other body fluids, are becoming more common in clinical practice, but developing accurate tests for kidney cancer has been difficult. “It doesn’t shed as much DNA as other tumors,” said Matthew Freedman, MD, medical oncologist at Dana-Farber and co–senior author of the report. “That’s where this test performs really well.”

Because the test relies on abnormal patterns in tumor-shed DNA, it can still detect early-stage disease even if the tumor is shedding very small amounts, he explained.

Reference

Nuzzo PV, Berchuck JE, Korthauer K, et al. Detection of renal cell carcinoma using plasma and urine cell-free DNA methylomes. Nat Med. Published June 22, 2020. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-0933-1

 
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