Plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is a small DNA fragment circulating in the bloodstream originating from both non-tumor- and tumor-derived cells. A previous study showed that a plasma telomeric cfDNA level decreases in sporadic breast cancer patients compared to controls. Tumor suppressor gene products including BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1&2) play an important role in telomere maintenance. In this study, we hypothesized that the plasma telomeric cfDNA level is associated with the mutation status of BRCA1&2 genes. To test this hypothesis, we performed plasma telomeric cfDNA quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based assays to compare 28 women carriers of the BRCA1&2 mutation with age-matched controls of 28 healthy women. The results showed that the plasma telomeric cfDNA level was lower in unaffected BRCA1&2 mutation carriers than in age-matched controls from non-obese women (BMI < 30), while there was no association between unaffected BRCA1&2 mutation carriers and age-matched controls in obese women (BMI > 30). Moreover, the plasma telomeric cfDNA level applied aptly to the Tyrer-Cuzick model in non-obese women. These findings suggest that circulating cfDNA may detect dysfunctional telomeres derived from cells with BRCA1&2 mutations and, therefore, its level is associated with breast cancer susceptibility. This pilot study warrants further investigation to elucidate the implication of plasma telomeric cfDNA levels in relation to cancer and obesity.

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Published in Oncotarget, v. 9, no. 3, p. 4214-4222.

© 2018 Dey et al.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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This work is supported in part by National Institutes of Health under CA205434 (to HT) and CA194030 (to CH), an Indiana University Simon Cancer Center Breast Cancer Signature pilot grant, an Indiana University School of Medicine Biomedical Research grant, the Showalter Foundation, the Friends for an Earlier Breast Cancer Test®, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.

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