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In recent years, there has been a rapid development in the use of blood samples to detect traces of cancer. Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is present in blood samples and technological advances have recently enabled sensitive detection of circulating cancer DNA (ctDNA) fragments among the cfDNA fragments that enables personal risk assessment.

The clinical validity of ctDNA as a prognostic marker, a treatment effectiveness indicator, and a tool for cancer detection has been demonstrated in multiple studies. Furthermore, ctDNA analysis may be used to establish a genetic profile of tumors, thus guiding individual treatment choices.

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What is ctDNA?

Circulating tumor DNA, ctDNA, is fragments of DNA shed from the cancer cells to the blood stream as the tumor grows and develops. These DNA fragments have a short lifetime of only a few hours in the blood stream and thus, if ctDNA can be detected in the blood, it is a very good real-time indicator of the presence and quantity of cancer cells in the body.

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How can ctDNA be used?

Several studies have shown that ctDNA analysis is more sensitive than conventional imaging in detecting cancer. This has opened for new strategies to manage cancer, e.g. to screen for cancer in asymptomatic individuals, for monitoring response to cancer treatment, and for relapse surveillance. ctDNA also provides information about the cancer genome, including information about mutations and epigenetic patterns. This information can be used to guide therapy decisions.

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What is the benefit?

 Detection of ctDNA is rapidly emerging as an important and minimally invasive diagnostic approach, that can be applied to practically all body fluids. The trials will make it possible to guide the cancer treatment to fit the individual patient and thus reduce the risk of overtreatment and side effects.

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What do we know?

ctDNA is a very promising liquid biopsy, and currently, there is a need for prospective clinical studies promoting
the translation of the many ctDNA-based research results into clinical practice. Hence, several research projects are ongoing throughout Denmark, and the ctDNA Center is a national platform for collaboration on these projects.

Visual explanation

ctDNA in the blood

Cancer cells shed fragments of DNA to the blood stream, when the tumor grows, divide, and cells die. These DNA fragments (circulating tumor DNA, ctDNA) are possible to detect in a blood sample.

As ctDNA disappears relatively fast from the circulation, it is a promising indicator for the tumor burden. The presence of ctDNA in the blood is an indicator of the presence of cancer somewhere in the body. This method has proven to detect cancer earlier than the traditional methods and monitor the tumor-burden after treatment.

Research in ctDNA is still on a trial basis, and many clinical research projects investigate the benefits of detecting ctDNA in cancer treatment.



Science Center Skejby, MOMA
Brendstrupgårdsvej 21, build. A
8200 Aarhus N