Liquid biopsy epigenomic profiling for cancer subtyping

Nat Med. 2023 Nov;29(11):2737-2741. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02605-z. Epub 2023 Oct 21.


Although circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) assays are increasingly used to inform clinical decisions in cancer care, they have limited ability to identify the transcriptional programs that govern cancer phenotypes and their dynamic changes during the course of disease. To address these limitations, we developed a method for comprehensive epigenomic profiling of cancer from 1 ml of patient plasma. Using an immunoprecipitation-based approach targeting histone modifications and DNA methylation, we measured 1,268 epigenomic profiles in plasma from 433 individuals with one of 15 cancers. Our assay provided a robust proxy for transcriptional activity, allowing us to infer the expression levels of diagnostic markers and drug targets, measure the activity of therapeutically targetable transcription factors and detect epigenetic mechanisms of resistance. This proof-of-concept study in advanced cancers shows how plasma epigenomic profiling has the potential to unlock clinically actionable information that is currently accessible only via direct tissue sampling.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Circulating Tumor DNA* / genetics
  • Epigenomics
  • Humans
  • Liquid Biopsy / methods
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms* / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Circulating Tumor DNA