Investigation and development of plasma-based cancer diagnostic

The blood of cancer patients contains DNA that has been shed by their tumours (circulating tumour DNA or ctDNA). As such, any genetic mutations in the tumour may be detected in the patient’s blood. Theoretically, patients can be followed and monitored through analysis of ctDNA, which would reveal if the patient is responding to treatment, is in remission, or if mutations are becoming more or less prevalent as the result of time and/or treatment pressure. The challenge is development of a reliable method of detecting ctDNA, with adequate sensitivity and specificity to guide treatment. This project will develop, optimize, and validate methods for detecting ctDNA associated with a variety of tumours. This will lead to the development of a clinical assay that can be used to monitor ctDNA for cancer patients. The partner organization, Contextual Genomics, will benefit from the development of a diagnostic assay that will eventually become part of their product collection. In addition, in the course of developing this assay, we will discover how ctDNA varies among different tumour types, how it correlates with tumour burden, and how it relates to relapse, response, and remission.

Faculty Supervisor:

Martin Ester


Tong He


Contextual Genomics Inc


Computer science


Medical devices


Simon Fraser University



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