Digital PCR-based plasma cell-free DNA mutation analysis for early-stage pancreatic tumor diagnosis and surveillance

Tetsuhiro Okada, Yusuke Mizukami, Yusuke Ono, Hiroki Sato, Akihiro Hayashi, Hidemasa Kawabata, Kazuya Koizumi, Sakue Masuda, Shinichi Teshima, Kuniyuki Takahashi, Akio Katanuma, Yuko Omori, Hirotoshi Iwano, Masataka Yamada, Tomoki Yokochi, Shingo Asahara, Kazumichi Kawakubo, Masaki Kuwatani, Naoya Sakamoto, Katsuro EnomotoTakuma Goto, Junpei Sasajima, Mikihiro Fujiya, Jun Ueda, Seiji Matsumoto, Kenzui Taniue, Ayumu Sugitani, Hidenori Karasaki, Toshikatsu Okumura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) shed from tumors into the circulation offers a tool for cancer detection. Here, we evaluated the feasibility of cfDNA measurement and utility of digital PCR (dPCR)-based assays, which reduce subsampling error, for diagnosing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) and surveillance of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN). Methods: We collected plasma from seven institutions for cfDNA measurements. Hot-spot mutations in KRAS and GNAS in the cfDNA from patients with PDA (n = 96), undergoing surveillance for IPMN (n = 112), and normal controls (n = 76) were evaluated using pre-amplification dPCR. Results: Upon Qubit measurement and copy number assessment of hemoglobin-subunit (HBB) and mitochondrially encoded NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase core subunit 1 (MT-ND1) in plasma cfDNA, HBB offered the best resolution between patients with PDA relative to healthy subjects [area under the curve (AUC) 0.862], whereas MT-ND1 revealed significant differences between IPMN and controls (AUC 0.851). DPCR utilizing pre-amplification cfDNA afforded accurate tumor-derived mutant KRAS detection in plasma in resectable PDA (AUC 0.861–0.876) and improved post-resection recurrence prediction [hazard ratio (HR) 3.179, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.025–9.859] over that for the marker CA19-9 (HR 1.464; 95% CI 0.674–3.181). Capturing KRAS and GNAS could also provide genetic evidence in patients with IPMN-associated PDA and undergoing pancreatic surveillance. Conclusions: Plasma cfDNA quantification by distinct measurements is useful to predict tumor burden. Through appropriate methods, dPCR-mediated mutation detection in patients with localized PDA and IPMN likely to progress to invasive carcinoma is feasible and complements conventional biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1193
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec


  • Cell-free DNA
  • Digital PCR
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Risk assessment


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