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Cell-Free DNA Can Improve GI Cancer Detection

By Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH

Cell-free DNA could be the next big breakthrough in detecting gastrointestinal cancers, according to Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center, and director of the Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at Dana-Farber Cancer.

Wolpin recently discussed findings from the Circulating Cell-Free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study (NCT02889978).


Using circulating cell-free DNA, and in particular a targeted methylation approach, which is what we've done in this study, can detect cancers with good sensitivity and with very high specificity. The high specificity is really important because it reduces the number of false positive tests that would occur where you start to screen people in the general population. The sensitivity is important because that's what allows you to identify patients early, before the disease has become advanced.

The main takeaway is that cell-free DNA testing can allow gastrointestinal tumor detection with high sensitivity and high specificity. And it also allowed us to try to identify the site of origin of the cancer, meaning which organ did it originate from. We were able to do that with approximately 90% accuracy.
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