Author(s): Corina Kohler, Ramin Radpour, Zeinab Barekati, Reza Asadollahi, Johannes Bitzer
Background With the aim to simplify cancer management, cancer research lately dedicated itself more and more to discover and develop non-invasive biomarkers. In this connection, circulating cell-free DNA (ccf DNA) seems to be a promising candidate. Altered levels of ccf nuclear DNA (nDNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) have been found in several cancer types and might have a diagnostic value. Methods Using multiplex real-time PCR we investigated the levels of ccf nDNA and mtDNA in plasma samples from patients with malignant and benign breast tumors, and from healthy controls. To evaluate the applicability of plasma ccf nDNA and mtDNA as a biomarker for distinguishing between the three study-groups we performed ROC (Receiver Operating Characteristic) curve analysis. We also compared the levels of both species in the cancer group with clinicopathological parameters. Results While the levels of ccf nDNA in the cancer group were significantly higher in comparison with the benign tumor group (P < 0.001) and the healthy control group (P < 0.001), the level of ccf mtDNA was found to be significantly lower in the two tumor-groups (benign: P < 0.001; malignant: P = 0.022). The level of ccf nDNA was also associated with tumor-size (<2 cm vs. >2 cm<5 cm; 2250 vs. 6658; Mann-Whitney-U-Test: P = 0.034). Using ROC curve analysis, we were able to distinguish between the breast cancer cases and the healthy controls using ccf nDNA as marker (cut-off: 1866 GE/ml; sensitivity: 81%; specificity: 69%; P < 0.001) and between the tumor group and the healthy controls using ccf mtDNA as marker (cut-off: 463282 GE/ml; sensitivity: 53%; specificity: 87%; P < 0.001).