Epigenomic markers of circulating cell-free DNA and treatment outcome in multiple myeloma

Project: Research project

Project Details


Multiple myeloma (MM) is a heterogeneous group of disorders with distinct bone marrow dependence, clinical features, prognosis, and response to therapy. Despite the best available treatments, MM is generally incurable and patients will eventually develop relapsed/refractory disease. Early relapse is associated with poor clinical outcomes and overall survival. There are currently no effective markers that can predict which patients will have early relapse. The long-term goal is to better understand the role of epigenetics in therapeutic response of MM and develop a non-invasive approach for predicting relapse. The overall objective in this application is to evaluate 5-hydroxymethylcytosines (5hmC) and 5-methylcytosines (5mC) in circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from MM patients as markers for predicting patients at high risk of early relapse at the time of diagnosis. It is known that greater epigenetic heterogeneity is linked with poorer survival and relapse. We propose that sensitive and robust blood-based epigenetic markers in cfDNA may offer greater convenience and minimal invasiveness for predicting relapse in MM. In addition to 5mC, changes in 5hmC, an abundant and stable modified cytosine with distinct gene regulatory function from 5mC, have been demonstrated to be important in development and pathogenesis. However, due to technological constraints, previous studies of epigenetics in MM have largely interpreted modified cytosines as 5mC only, and no study has evaluated the distinct roles of 5hmC and 5mC in the therapeutic significance for MM. To fill the current research and technical gaps and consider the high impact of developing a minimally invasive blood test for MM, we will utilize a highly sensitive and robust technique developed by our team, the nano-Seal-Seq (a chemical labeling technique integrated with the next-generation sequencing), to accurately determine 5hmC and 5mC in cfDNA and CD138+ myeloma “cancer” cells from bone marrow. The central hypothesis is that the 5hnC/5mc signatures in cfDNA at diagnosis can distinguish MM patients by early relapse/refractory status. In Aim 1, we will use the nano-Seal-Seq to profile 5hmC and 5mC in cfDNA from ~20 MM patients (relapse within 12 months (early relapse, n=120) vs. 12 months (late relapse, n=120) of starting initital therapy) to develop an integrated predictive index for early relapse. Next, we will validate the 5hmC/5mC index in an independent replication population of ~850 MM patients. In Aim 2, we will profile 5hmC/5mC in 300 CD138+ tumor cells from the bone marrow with paired plasma to determine bone marrow-based predictive index, of which the performance will be compared with that of markers in cfDNA. In Aim 3, we will investigate change of 5hmC/5mC in serial cfDNA over time in 150 patients to characterize its therapeutic significance. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to vertically advance understanding of biological basis for early relapsed MM and promote the development of a new paradigm for epigenetic signature monitoring (and eventually, treatment) that has broad translational importance in the personalized management of high-risk patients.
Effective start/end date7/1/186/30/23


  • University of Chicago (FP066297-02-PR-B // 5R01CA223662-04)
  • National Cancer Institute (FP066297-02-PR-B // 5R01CA223662-04)


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