Dutch National Round Robin Trial on Plasma-Derived Circulating Cell-Free DNA Extraction Methods Routinely Used in Clinical Pathology for Molecular Tumor Profiling

Paul van der Leest, Emma M Ketelaar, Carel J M van Noesel, Daan van den Broek, Robert A A van Boerdonk, Birgit Deiman, Naomi Rifaela, Robert van der Geize, Cornelis J J Huijsmans, Ernst Jan M Speel, Maartje J Geerlings, Ron H N van Schaik, Maurice P H M Jansen, Ria Dane-Vogelaar, Else Driehuis, Mathie P G Leers, Grigory Sidorenkov, Menno Tamminga, Léon C van Kempen, Ed Schuuring*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Efficient recovery of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) depends on the quantity and quality of circulating cell-free DNA (ccfDNA). Here, we evaluated whether various ccfDNA extraction methods routinely applied in Dutch laboratories affect ccfDNA yield, ccfDNA integrity, and mutant ctDNA detection, using identical lung cancer patient-derived plasma samples.

METHODS: Aliquots of 4 high-volume diagnostic leukapheresis plasma samples and one artificial reference plasma sample with predetermined tumor-derived mutations were distributed among 14 Dutch laboratories. Extractions of ccfDNA were performed according to local routine standard operating procedures and were analyzed at a central reference laboratory for mutant detection and assessment of ccfDNA quantity and integrity.

RESULTS: Mutant molecule levels in extracted ccfDNA samples varied considerably between laboratories, but there was no indication of consistent above or below average performance. Compared to silica membrane-based methods, samples extracted with magnetic beads-based kits revealed an overall lower total ccfDNA yield (-29%; P < 0.0001) and recovered fewer mutant molecules (-41%; P < 0.01). The variant allelic frequency and sample integrity were similar. In samples with a higher-than-average total ccfDNA yield, an augmented recovery of mutant molecules was observed.

CONCLUSIONS: In the Netherlands, we encountered diversity in preanalytical workflows with potential consequences on mutant ctDNA detection in clinical practice. Silica membrane-based methodologies resulted in the highest total ccfDNA yield and are therefore preferred to detect low copy numbers of relevant mutations. Harmonization of the extraction workflow for accurate quantification and sensitive detection is required to prevent introduction of technical divergence in the preanalytical phase and reduce interlaboratory discrepancies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Chemistry
Issue number7
Early online date25-May-2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2022


  • cancer
  • clinical investigation
  • molecular diagnostics
  • nucleic acid-based testing
  • quantitative analysis of nucleic acids
  • tumor markers
  • KITS

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