Liquid biopsies using cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) are being used frequently in both research and clinical settings. ctDNA can be used to identify actionable mutations to personalize systemic therapy, detect post-treatment minimal residual disease (MRD), and predict responses to immunotherapy. ctDNA can also be isolated from a range of different biofluids, with the possibility of detecting locoregional MRD with increased sensitivity if sampling more proximally than blood plasma. However, ctDNA detection remains challenging in early-stage and post-treatment MRD settings where ctDNA levels are minuscule giving a high risk for false negative results, which is balanced with the risk of false positive results from clonal hematopoiesis. To address these challenges, researchers have developed ever-more elegant approaches to lower the limit of detection (LOD) of ctDNA assays toward the part-per-million range and boost assay sensitivity and specificity by reducing sources of low-level technical and biological noise, and by harnessing specific genomic and epigenomic features of ctDNA. In this review, we highlight a range of modern assays for ctDNA analysis, including advancements made to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. We further highlight the challenge of detecting ultra-rare tumor-associated variants, overcoming which will improve the sensitivity of post-treatment MRD detection and open a new frontier of personalized adjuvant treatment decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere006284
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 22 2023


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