Cell-free DNA Methylation

cfDNA Methylation Analysis in CRC for Minimal Residual Disease Detection in Hispanic/Latinos and African Americans

Project Snapshot

Did you know?

Minimal residual disease (MRD) refers to the presence of small amounts of cancer cells in the body after cancer treatment. Early detection of MRD is crucial for improving colorectal cancer (CRC) recurrence detection and treatment effectiveness.


To develop cfDNA methylation liquid biopsies for detecting MRD in CRC among Hispanic/Latino and African American patients.


  • Identify chemical markers in blood samples from advanced stage CRC patients to compare with samples from treated patients from each racial/ethnic group to create a MRD detection panel.
  • Design and test a targeted genetic test using blood samples from post-surgery patients with no evidence of disease.


Detecting MRD will enable cancer researchers to identify the risk of CRC recurrence and determine treatment options to improve outcomes for underrepresented minority populations.


Project Deep Dive


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer mortality in the US with evident racial and ethnic disparities in disease incidence and outcomes. Recent advancements in liquid biopsy can provide important treatment options to some CRC patients, particularly by detecting Minimal Residual Disease (MRD), which refers to residual cancer cells in the body post-treatment. One of the approaches, cell-free (cf)DNA methylation, has shown promising data for the detection of MRD. To enhance MRD detection, especially among underrepresented populations with CRC including Hispanic/Latinos (H/L) and African Americans (AA), researchers from COPECC and WU-PE-CGS will collaborate to develop cfDNA methylation liquid biopsies for detecting MRD in CRC.

Researchers will utilize a method called whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) to identify specific chemical markers in the DNA fragments in blood of advanced staged CRC patients from H/L and AA participants. They will compare the samples to those successfully treated from each racial or ethnic group. These specific markers found in advanced stage CRC patients will help create a panel to detect MRD, called CRC4C-AAHL. Additionally, they will design and test a targeted genetic test using blood samples collected post-surgery from H/L and AA patients with no evidence of disease.

Developing the CRC4C-AAHL MRD panel has the potential to identify patients at the highest risk of recurrence and predict disease-specific survival. This information can help determine treatment decisions, including the type and intensity of treatment. Ultimately, MRD detection using cfDNA methylation approach helps develop treatment interventions to cure cancer, potentially improving outcomes for CRC patients, particularly among underrepresented minority populations.