Research Papers:

Using droplet digital PCR to analyze MYCN and ALK copy number in plasma from patients with neuroblastoma

Marco Lodrini _, Annika Sprüssel, Kathy Astrahantseff, Daniela Tiburtius, Robert Konschak, Holger N. Lode, Matthias Fischer, Ulrich Keilholz, Angelika Eggert and Hedwig E. Deubzer

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:85234-85251. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.19076

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Marco Lodrini1, Annika Sprüssel1, Kathy Astrahantseff1, Daniela Tiburtius1, Robert Konschak2,3, Holger N. Lode4, Matthias Fischer5,6,7, Ulrich Keilholz8, Angelika Eggert1,3,9 and Hedwig E. Deubzer1,9,10

1Department of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

2Translational Radiation Oncology Research Laboratory, Department of Radiooncology and Radiotherapy, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

3German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Partner Site Berlin, Berlin, Germany

4Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, University Medicine Greifswald, Ferdinand-Sauerbruch-Straße, Germany

5Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital Cologne, Cologne, Germany

6Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

7Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, Cologne, Germany

8Charité Comprehensive Cancer Center, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

9Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Berlin, Germany

10Junior Neuroblastoma Research Group, Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), Berlin, Germany

Correspondence to:

Marco Lodrini, email: [email protected]

Keywords: intratumor heterogeneity, liquid biopsy, non-invasive biomarker, pediatric cancer, tumor dynamics

Received: April 21, 2017     Accepted: June 20, 2017     Published: July 07, 2017


The invasive nature of surgical biopsies deters sequential application, and single biopsies often fail to reflect tumor dynamics, intratumor heterogeneity and drug sensitivities likely to change during tumor evolution and treatment. Implementing molecular characterization of cell-free neuroblastoma-derived DNA isolated from blood plasma could improve disease assessment for treatment selection and monitoring of patients with high-risk neuroblastoma. We established droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) protocols for MYCN and ALK copy number status in plasma from neuroblastoma patients. Our ddPCR protocol accurately discriminated between MYCN and ALK amplification, gain and normal diploid status in a large panel of neuroblastoma cell lines, and discrepancies with reported MYCN and ALK status were detected, including a high-level MYCN amplification in NB-1, a MYCN gain in SH-SY5Y, a high-level ALK amplification in IMR-32 and ALK gains in BE(2)-C, Kelly, SH-SY5Y and LAN-6. MYCN and ALK status were also reliably determined from cell-free DNA derived from medium conditioned by the cell lines. MYCN and ALK copy numbers of subcutaneous neuroblastoma xenograft tumors were accurately determined from cell-free DNA in the mouse blood plasma. In a final validation step, we accurately distinguished MYCN and ALK copy numbers of the corresponding primary tumors using retrospectively collected blood plasma samples from 10 neuroblastoma patients. Our data justify the further development of molecular disease characterization using cell-free DNA in blood plasma from patients with neuroblastoma. This expanded molecular diagnostic palette may improve monitoring of disease progression including relapse and metastatic events as well as therapy success or failure in high-risk neuroblastoma patients.

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