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Lab Talks & Webinars

The Liquid Biopsy Series: Detection and monitoring of breast and colon cancer

5 Sept 2023

This webinar is part of the Liquid Biopsy series which discussed liquid biopsy in breast cancer, urinary and gynaecological cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and MRD.

Tuesday 5th September 2023 at 10:00am ET / 4:00pm CET

The Liquid Biopsy Series: Detection and monitoring of breast and colon cancer
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During this webinar, Dr. Sukumar presented their methods for systematically identifying methylated gene markers for detection and monitoring of cancer load that are sensitive and specific from public databases, assessment of their technical performance in training and test sample sets, and assay validation in prospectively collected patient samples of blood. Finally, she described their success at automating these to 3-4 h assays with scientists at Cepheid, and their current performance using the first-generation cartridges. She will do this for breast cancer and touch upon our current studies with colon cancer more briefly.


  • Diaceutics - Welcome & introduction to Diaceutics.
  • Dr. Sukumar - Liquid biopsy and methylated marker-based automated methods for detection and monitoring of breast and colon cancer
  • All participants - Discussion and questions.


Dr. Sukumar

Dr. Sukumar

Dr. Sukumar is a highly accomplished and respected researcher in the field of breast cancer. Her laboratory's primary objective is to unravel the intricate molecular mechanisms underlying breast cancer using cutting-edge technologies. By doing so, she aims to translate these discoveries into early detection methods, prognosis assessment, and predictions of therapeutic response for breast cancer patients.

Throughout her career, Dr. Sukumar has led multiple research teams, serving as the Director of prestigious institutions such as The DOD Center of Excellence, The JH Breast SPORE, and the AVON Foundation Center of Excellence. Her extensive experience in team science makes her a proficient leader for the three teams involved in her current proposal.

With an impressive track record, Dr. Sukumar has been the Principal Investigator for over 20 grants from renowned organizations including the NCI, DOD, Komen, and AVON foundations. Her work has resulted in the publication of more than 200 papers, covering a broad spectrum of research, ranging from fundamental investigations into gene function in endocrine and chemotherapy resistance to translational and clinical studies.

One significant contribution from Dr. Sukumar's laboratory is the development and establishment of methylation markers for breast cancer detection, monitoring, and prognosis. Her team has devised techniques to detect methylated markers even in minute samples, such as cells obtained from breast endoscopic fluid, nipple aspirates, and fine needle aspirates. Moreover, they successfully developed the cMethDNA assay, which detects methylated circulating tumor DNA in as little as 300 ul of blood, identifying cancer in 95% of women with metastatic breast cancer.

Collaborating closely with clinical colleagues, Dr. Sukumar formed the Omics Team, which has conducted technical and clinical validations of the cMethDNA assay, producing notable publications in Cancer Research and the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Additionally, her collaborative efforts have led to the discovery of genes through detailed methylome analysis, testing, and validation, aiming to identify patients who would benefit most from chemotherapy.

Dr. Sukumar's laboratory has made recent strides in automation, successfully automating the QM-MSP and cMethDNA assays. Early pilot studies for clinical validation of these assays have shown exceptional promise, achieving sensitivities exceeding 92%, specificities of 96%, and a remarkable ROC/AUC of 0.946. Currently, the breast cancer detection assay is a 10-gene, 3-cartridge system, but efforts are underway to make it more accessible, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Another area of focus for Dr. Sukumar's lab is intraductal treatment of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and breast cancer prevention, particularly among women with a hereditary susceptibility to the disease. They have been pioneers in this field, spearheading important advancements in understanding and addressing these critical aspects of breast cancer.

Dr. Sukumar's contributions to breast cancer research have been invaluable, bridging the gap between fundamental science and clinical application. Her dedication to unraveling the molecular complexities of breast cancer and her vision for improving detection, prognosis, and treatment make her a highly respected and influential figure in the field.

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