Whole genome deep sequencing analysis of cell-free DNA in samples with low tumour content
Background Circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in the plasma of cancer patients contains cell-free tumour DNA (ctDNA) derived from tumour cells and it has been widely recognized as a non-invasive source of tumour DNA for diagnosis and prognosis of cancer. Molecular profiling of ctDNA is often performed using targeted sequencing or low-coverage whole genome sequencing (WGS) to identify tumour specific somatic mutations or somatic copy number aberrations (sCNAs). However, these approaches cannot
... iciently detect all tumour-derived genomic changes in ctDNA. Methods We performed WGS analysis of cfDNA from 4 breast cancer patients and 2 patients with benign tumours. We sequenced matched germline DNA for all 6 patients and tumour samples from the breast cancer patients. All samples were sequenced on Illumina HiSeqXTen sequencing platform and achieved approximately 30x, 60x and 100x coverage on germline, tumour and plasma DNA samples, respectively. Results The mutational burden of the plasma samples (1.44 somatic mutations/Mb of genome) was higher than the matched tumour samples. However, 90% of high confidence somatic cfDNA variants were not detected in matched tumour samples and were found to comprise two background plasma mutational signatures. In contrast, cfDNA from the di-nucleosome fraction (300 bp–350 bp) had much higher proportion (30%) of variants shared with tumour. Despite high coverage sequencing we were unable to detect sCNAs in plasma samples. Conclusions Deep sequencing analysis of plasma samples revealed higher fraction of unique somatic mutations in plasma samples, which were not detected in matched tumour samples. Sequencing of di-nucleosome bound cfDNA fragments may increase recovery of tumour mutations from plasma.