Cookie Settings

We use cookies to optimize our website. These include cookies that are necessary for the operation of the site, as well as those that are only used for anonymous statistic. You can decide for yourself which categories you want to allow. Further information can be found in our data privacy protection .


These cookies are necessary to run the core functionalities of this website and cannot be disabled.

Name Webedition CMS
Purpose This cookie is required by the CMS (Content Management System) Webedition for the system to function correctly. Typically, this cookie is deleted when the browser is closed.
Name econda
Purpose Session cookie emos_jcsid for the web analysis software econda. This runs in the “anonymized measurement” mode. There is no personal reference. As soon as the user leaves the site, tracking is ended and all data in the browser are automatically deleted.

These cookies help us understand how visitors interact with our website by collecting and analyzing information anonymously. Depending on the tool, one or more cookies are set by the provider.

Name econda
Purpose Statistics
External media

Content from external media platforms is blocked by default. If cookies from external media are accepted, access to this content no longer requires manual consent.

Name YouTube
Purpose Show YouTube content
Name Twitter
Purpose activate Twitter Feeds

Cancer DNA in the blood: an early warning system for recurrent tumors in children

No. 15 | 16/03/2022 | by Koh

Neuroblastomas release DNA fragments into the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of patients. These genetic material can indicate a possible disease recurrence at an early stage. It also provides information about changes in certain cancer-driving genes. This is what scientists from the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), a partner site at Charité Berlin, have discovered with the help of state-of-the-art molecular biological methods. They believe that this principle can be used in clinical practice as a gentle method for the early detection of recurrent tumors.

In the DKTK, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, as the core center, joins forces in the long term with university partner sites in Germany that have a special reputation for oncology.

© Shutterstock

Neuroblastomas are malignant tumors that occur predominantly in infants and young children. They arise from cells of the embryonic nervous system and usually form in the spinal chord or the adrenal gland. The course of the disease varies widely. About half of neuroblastomas are particularly aggressive and may recur after therapy. In this case, the patients' chances of survival are very low.

Recurrence is triggered by a small number of tumor cells surviving the therapy. Detecting this so-called minimal residual disease at an early stage - if possible before it can lead to relapses - can improve the further prognosis of the affected children. A prerequisite for this is continuous monitoring with diagnostic methods, because several surgical procedures to remove tissue in series would be far too stressful for those affected. "A promising alternative to tissue analysis is provided by so-called liquid biopsies, which are obtained in a minimally invasive way, for example by taking a sample of the patient's blood or cerebrospinal fluid," explains pediatrician Hedwig Deubzer from the DKTK partner site at the Charité in Berlin. She and her team are researching such methods.

Scientists had already succeeded in detecting cell-free genetic material from tumor cells, so-called ctDNA, in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of children with neuroblastoma using molecular biological techniques. The DKTK team now investigated whether ctDNA from liquid biopsies could be used as a diagnostic marker to follow the course of the disease - with success. It was able to show that cell-free tumor DNA can be detected early in liquid biopsies from high-risk neuroblastoma patients. "We even identified two patients who had no signs of disease progression up to that point," Deubzer said. "We anticipate that liquid biopsy will be very suitable for routine clinical use because of its sensitivity and the fact that sample material can be easily obtained."

The researchers were also able to show that ctDNA fragments are not only useful as an early warning system for the return of neuroblastoma after therapy. They also provide information about molecular changes in tumor DNA that occur over time and that may be relevant to therapy. The researchers also found such dynamic changes in the region of two known cancer driver genes: the MYCN gene and the ALK gene. "The ALK gene in particular represents a target for cancer therapy with an ALK inhibitor," Deubzer said. "The early detection of alterations in this gene therefore also means a new option for follow-up treatment for some patients."

Marco Lodrini, Josefine Graef, Theresa M. Thole-Kliesch, Kathy Astrahantseff, Annika Sprüssel, Maddalena Grimaldi, Constantin Peitz, Rasmus B. Linke, Jan F. Hollander, Erwin Lankes, Annette Künkele, Lena Oevermann, Georg Schwabe, Joerg Fuchs, Annabell Szymansky, Johannes H. Schulte, Patrick Hundsdoerfer, Cornelia Eckert, Holger Amthauer, Angelika Eggert, Hedwig E. Deubzer
Clin Cancer Res 2022, DOI:

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


Subscribe to our RSS-Feed.

to top
powered by webEdition CMS