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Inference of tumor cell-specific transcription factor binding from cell-free DNA enables tumor subtype prediction and early detection of cancer

By Peter Ulz, Samantha Perakis, Qing Zhou, Tina Moser, Jelena Belic, Isaac Lazzeri, Albert W├Âlfler, Armin Zebisch, Armin Gerger, Gunda Pristauz, Edgar Petru, Brandon White, Charles E.S. Roberts, John St. John, Michael G Schimek, Jochen B. Geigl, Thomas Bauernhofer, Heinz Sill, Christoph Bock, Ellen Heitzer, Michael R. Speicher

Posted 30 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/456681

Deregulation of transcription factors (TFs) is an important driver of tumorigenesis. We developed and validated a minimally invasive method for assessing TF activity based on cell-free DNA sequencing and nucleosome footprint analysis. We analyzed whole genome sequencing data for >1,000 cell-free DNA samples from cancer patients and healthy controls using a newly developed bioinformatics pipeline that infers accessibility of TF binding sites from cell-free DNA fragmentation patterns. We observed patient-specific as well as tumor-specific patterns, including accurate prediction of tumor subtypes in prostate cancer, with important clinical implications for the management of patients. Furthermore, we show that cell-free DNA TF profiling is capable of early detection of colorectal carcinomas. Our approach for mapping tumor-specific transcription factor binding in vivo based on blood samples makes a key part of the noncoding genome amenable to clinical analysis.

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