Cancer cells shed naked DNA molecules into the circulation. This circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) has become the predominant analyte for liquid biopsies to understand the mutational landscape of cancer. Coupled with next-generation sequencing, ctDNA can serve as an alternative substrate to tumor tissues for mutation detection and companion diagnostic purposes. In fact, recent advances in precision medicine have rapidly enabled the use of ctDNA to guide treatment decisions for predicting response and resistance to targeted therapies and immunotherapies. An advantage of using ctDNA over conventional tissue biopsies is the relatively noninvasive approach of obtaining peripheral blood, allowing for simple repeated and serial assessments. Most current clinical practice using ctDNA has endeavored to identify druggable and resistance mutations for guiding systemic therapy decisions, albeit mostly in metastatic disease. However, newer research is evaluating potential for ctDNA as a marker of minimal residual disease in the curative setting and as a useful screening tool to detect cancer in the general population. Here we review the history of ctDNA and liquid biopsies, technologies to detect ctDNA, and some of the current challenges and limitations in using ctDNA as a marker of minimal residual disease and as a general blood-based cancer screening tool. We also discuss the need to develop rigorous clinical studies to prove the clinical utility of ctDNA for future applications in oncology.
Donna K. Dang, Ben H. Park
Immunity is governed by fundamental genetic processes. These processes shape the nature of immune cells and set the rules that dictate the myriad complex cellular interactions that power immune systems. Everything from the generation of T cell receptors and antibodies, control of epitope presentation, and recognition of pathogens by the immunoediting of cancer cells is, in large part, made possible by core genetic mechanisms and the cellular machinery that they encode. In the last decade, next-generation sequencing has been used to dissect the complexities of cancer immunity with potent effect. Sequencing of exomes and genomes has begun to reveal how the immune system recognizes “foreign” entities and distinguishes self from non-self, especially in the setting of cancer. High-throughput analyses of transcriptomes have revealed deep insights into how the tumor microenvironment affects immunotherapy efficacy. In this Review, we discuss how high-throughput sequencing has added to our understanding of how immune systems interact with cancer cells and how cancer immunotherapies work.
Ahmed Halima, Winston Vuong, Timothy A. Chan
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are among the top contributors to disability and mortality in later life. As with many chronic conditions, aging is the single most influential factor in the development of ADRD. Even among older adults who remain free of dementia throughout their lives, cognitive decline and neurodegenerative changes are appreciable with advancing age, suggesting shared pathophysiological mechanisms. In this Review, we provide an overview of changes in cognition, brain morphology, and neuropathological protein accumulation across the lifespan in humans, with complementary and mechanistic evidence from animal models. Next, we highlight selected aging processes that are differentially regulated in neurodegenerative disease, including aberrant autophagy, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, epigenetic changes, cerebrovascular dysfunction, inflammation, and lipid dysregulation. We summarize research across clinical and translational studies to link biological aging processes to underlying ADRD pathogenesis. Targeting fundamental processes underlying biological aging may represent a yet relatively unexplored avenue to attenuate both age-related cognitive decline and ADRD. Collaboration across the fields of geroscience and neuroscience, coupled with the development of new translational animal models that more closely align with human disease processes, is necessary to advance novel therapeutic discovery in this realm.
Mitzi M. Gonzales, Valentina R. Garbarino, Erin Pollet, Juan P. Palavicini, Dean L. Kellogg Jr., Ellen Kraig, Miranda E. Orr
The mechanisms that explain mitochondrial dysfunction in aging and healthspan continue to be studied, but one element has been unexplored: microproteins. Small open reading frames in circular mitochondria DNA can encode multiple microproteins, called mitochondria-derived peptides (MDPs). Currently, eight MDPs have been published: humanin, MOTS-c, and SHLPs 1–6. This Review describes recent advances in microprotein discovery with a focus on MDPs. It discusses what is currently known about MDPs in aging and how this new understanding could add to the way we understand age-related diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases at the genomic, proteomic, and drug-development levels.
Brendan Miller, Su-Jeong Kim, Hiroshi Kumagai, Kelvin Yen, Pinchas Cohen
Targeted therapies have come to play an increasingly important role in cancer therapy over the past two decades. This success has been made possible in large part by technological advances in sequencing, which have greatly advanced our understanding of the mutational landscape of human cancer and the genetic drivers present in individual tumors. We are rapidly discovering a growing number of mutations that occur in targetable pathways, and thus tumor genetic testing has become an important component in the choice of appropriate therapies. Targeted therapy has dramatically transformed treatment outcomes and disease prognosis in some settings, whereas in other oncologic contexts, targeted approaches have yet to demonstrate considerable clinical efficacy. In this Review, we summarize the current knowledge of targetable mutations that occur in a range of cancers, including hematologic malignancies and solid tumors such as non–small cell lung cancer and breast cancer. We outline seminal examples of druggable mutations and targeting modalities and address the clinical and research challenges that must be overcome to maximize therapeutic benefit.
Michael R. Waarts, Aaron J. Stonestrom, Young C. Park, Ross L. Levine
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology has advanced our understanding of the human microbiome by allowing for the discovery and characterization of unculturable microbes with prediction of their function. Key NGS methods include 16S rRNA gene sequencing, shotgun metagenomic sequencing, and RNA sequencing. The choice of which NGS methodology to pursue for a given purpose is often unclear for clinicians and researchers. In this Review, we describe the fundamentals of NGS, with a focus on 16S rRNA and shotgun metagenomic sequencing. We also discuss pros and cons of each methodology as well as important concepts in data variability, study design, and clinical metadata collection. We further present examples of how NGS studies of the human microbiome have advanced our understanding of human disease pathophysiology across diverse clinical contexts, including the development of diagnostics and therapeutics. Finally, we share insights as to how NGS might further be integrated into and advance microbiome research and clinical care in the coming years.
Caroline R. Wensel, Jennifer L. Pluznick, Steven L. Salzberg, Cynthia L. Sears
Rare genetic disorders, when considered together, are relatively common. Despite advancements in genetics and genomics technologies as well as increased understanding of genomic function and dysfunction, many genetic diseases continue to be difficult to diagnose. The goal of this Review is to increase the familiarity of genetic testing strategies for non-genetics providers. As genetic testing is increasingly used in primary care, many subspecialty clinics, and various inpatient settings, it is important that non-genetics providers have a fundamental understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of various genetic testing strategies as well as develop an ability to interpret genetic testing results. We provide background on commonly used genetic testing approaches, give examples of phenotypes in which the various genetic testing approaches are used, describe types of genetic and genomic variations, cover challenges in variant identification, provide examples in which next-generation sequencing (NGS) failed to uncover the variant responsible for a disease, and discuss opportunities for continued improvement in the application of NGS clinically. As genetic testing becomes increasingly a part of all areas of medicine, familiarity with genetic testing approaches and result interpretation is vital to decrease the burden of undiagnosed disease.
Bryce A. Schuler, Erica T. Nelson, Mary Koziura, Joy D. Cogan, Rizwan Hamid, John A. Phillips III
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions and is a major contributor to insulin resistance (IR) and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Importantly, IR and T2D substantially increase the risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease. Although there are successful approaches to maintain glycemic control, there continue to be increased CV morbidity and mortality associated with metabolic disease. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand the cellular and molecular processes that underlie cardiometabolic changes that occur during obesity so that optimal medical therapies can be designed to attenuate or prevent the sequelae of this disease. The vascular endothelium is in constant contact with the circulating milieu; thus, it is not surprising that obesity-driven elevations in lipids, glucose, and proinflammatory mediators induce endothelial dysfunction, vascular inflammation, and vascular remodeling in all segments of the vasculature. As cardiometabolic disease progresses, so do pathological changes in the entire vascular network, which can feed forward to exacerbate disease progression. Recent cellular and molecular data have implicated the vasculature as an initiating and instigating factor in the development of several cardiometabolic diseases. This Review discusses these findings in the context of atherosclerosis, IR and T2D, and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. In addition, novel strategies to therapeutically target the vasculature to lessen cardiometabolic disease burden are introduced.
Nabil E. Boutagy, Abhishek K. Singh, William C. Sessa
Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide, with pathological fibrotic remodeling mediated by activated cardiac myofibroblasts representing a unifying theme across etiologies. Despite the profound contributions of myocardial fibrosis to cardiac dysfunction and heart failure, there currently exist limited clinical interventions that effectively target the cardiac fibroblast and its role in fibrotic tissue deposition. Exploration of novel strategies designed to mitigate or reverse myofibroblast activation and cardiac fibrosis will likely yield powerful therapeutic approaches for the treatment of multiple diseases of the heart, including heart failure with preserved or reduced ejection fraction, acute coronary syndrome, and cardiovascular disease linked to type 2 diabetes. In this Review, we provide an overview of classical regulators of cardiac fibrosis and highlight emerging, next-generation epigenetic regulatory targets that have the potential to revolutionize treatment of the expanding cardiovascular disease patient population.
Joshua G. Travers, Charles A. Tharp, Marcello Rubino, Timothy A. McKinsey
Myosin modulators are a novel class of pharmaceutical agents that are being developed to treat patients with a range of cardiomyopathies. The therapeutic goal of these drugs is to target cardiac myosins directly to modulate contractility and cardiac power output to alleviate symptoms that lead to heart failure and arrhythmias, without altering calcium signaling. In this Review, we discuss two classes of drugs that have been developed to either activate (omecamtiv mecarbil) or inhibit (mavacamten) cardiac contractility by binding to β-cardiac myosin (MYH7). We discuss progress in understanding the mechanisms by which the drugs alter myosin mechanochemistry, and we provide an appraisal of the results from clinical trials of these drugs, with consideration for the importance of disease heterogeneity and genetic etiology for predicting treatment benefit.
Sharlene M. Day, Jil C. Tardiff, E. Michael Ostap
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