Circulating tumour DNA as a personalised biomarker

Start Year: 2014
Finish Year: 2018
Chief Investigator: Dr Sarah-Jane Dawson
Grant Type: Early Career Fellowship
Institution: University of Melbourne

Many breast cancers shed small amounts of DNA (called circulating tumour DNA or ctDNA) into the patient’s bloodstream The measurement of ctDNA in the blood of women with breast cancer has the potential to be used as a marker of disease progression or response to therapy. Through recent advances in genomic technologies, it is now possible to characterise specific DNA mutations in a patient’s tumour, to design tests to identify these mutations, and then apply these tests to accurately measure the amount of ctDNA in their blood.

The potential clinical applications of this new technology are far-reaching, including studying how breast cancers evolve when they progress and become resistant to treatment. Dr Dawson will also evaluate if ctDNA can be used as a form of ‘liquid biopsy’ to serially follow patients and individualise treatment decisions in breast cancer.

This research proposal will contribute essential biological insights into the evolution of breast cancer during disease progression. It will also address an unmet clinical need, by providing the opportunity for personalised disease monitoring in breast cancer.