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Multimodal, genome-wide characterization of epigenetic and genetic information in circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) could enable more sensitive early cancer detection, but it is technologically challenging. Recently, we developed TET-assisted pyridine borane sequencing (TAPS), which is a mild, bisulfite-free method for base-resolution direct DNA methylation sequencing. Here, we optimized TAPS for cfDNA (cfTAPS) to provide high-quality and high-depth whole-genome cell-free methylomes. We applied cfTAPS to 85 cfDNA samples from patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and noncancer controls. From only 10 ng of cfDNA (1 to 3 ml of plasma), we generated the most comprehensive cfDNA methylome to date. We demonstrated that cfTAPS provides multimodal information about cfDNA characteristics, including DNA methylation, tissue of origin, and DNA fragmentation. Integrated analysis of these epigenetic and genetic features enables accurate identification of early HCC and PDAC.

Original publication




Journal article


Science advances

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Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.