Simultaneous Ultra-Sensitive Detection of Structural and Single Nucleotide Variants Using Multiplex Droplet Digital PCR in Liquid Biopsies from Children with Medulloblastoma

Arthur C, Jylhä C, de Ståhl TD, Shamikh A, Sandgren J, Rosenquist R, Nordenskjöld M, Harila A, Barbany G, Sandvik U, Tham E.

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Mar 25;15(7):1972. doi: 10.3390/cancers15071972. PMID: 37046633; PMCID: PMC10092983.

Medulloblastoma is a malignant embryonal tumor of the central nervous system (CNS) that mainly affects infants and children. Prognosis is highly variable, and molecular biomarkers for measurable residual disease (MRD) detection are lacking. Analysis of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) using broad genomic approaches, such as low-coverage whole-genome sequencing, has shown promising prognostic value. However, more sensitive methods are needed for MRD analysis. Here, we show the technical feasibility of capturing medulloblastoma-associated structural variants and point mutations simultaneously in cfDNA using multiplexed droplet digital PCR (ddPCR). Assay sensitivity was assessed with a dilution series of tumor in normal genomic DNA, and the limit of detection was below 100 pg of input DNA for all assays. False positive rates were zero for structural variant assays. Liquid biopsies (CSF and plasma, n = 47) were analyzed from 12 children with medulloblastoma, all with negative CSF cytology. MRD was detected in 75% (9/12) of patients overall. In CSF samples taken before or within 21 days of surgery, MRD was detected in 88% (7/8) of patients with localized disease and in one patient with the metastasized disease. Our results suggest that this approach could expand the utility of ddPCR and complement broader analyses of cfDNA for MRD detection.