Detection of tumour DNA in serum of colorectal cancer patients

Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 1997 Nov;57(7):601-4. doi: 10.3109/00365519709055283.


Circulating tumour DNA has previously been detected in serum and plasma of patients with lung cancer and head and neck cancer. These observations could potentially lead to new, specific and non-invasive tools for diagnosis, prognosis and follow-up in neoplastic disease, if found to be a more general phenomenon. To test if tumour DNA is also present in serum of patients with colorectal cancer, we selected 14 colorectal cancer patients with advanced disease. In seven patients, K-ras mutations were detected in the primary tumour, using mutant-specific primers for point mutations in codon 12 or 13 of the K-ras gene. All patients were analysed for mutant DNA in serum. Tumour-specific point mutations, corresponding to the K-ras mutations found in the primary tumour were detected in the serum of all patients but one. No mutant K-ras could be detected in the serum of seven patients without K-ras mutations in the primary tumour. These results may be useful in assessing tumour burden in patients with neoplastic disease. Moreover, consecutive testing of serum tumour DNA after surgery or chemotherapy may be used as a tumour marker for recurrent disease.

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis*
  • Genes, ras / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA, Neoplasm