Interlaboratory evaluation of quality control methods for circulating cell-free DNA extraction

Alison Devonshire*, Gerwyn Jones, Ana Fernandez Gonzalez, Olga Kofanova, Johanna Trouet, Pamela Pinzani, Stefania Gelmini, Serena Bonin, Carole Foy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Analysis of circulating cell-free DNA (ccfDNA) isolated from liquid biopsies is rapidly being implemented into clinical practice. However, diagnostic accuracy is significantly impacted by sample quality and standardised approaches for assessing the quality of ccfDNA are not yet established. In this study we evaluated the application of nucleic acid "spike-in" control materials to aid quality control (QC) and standardisation of cfDNA isolation for use in in vitro diagnostic assays. We describe an approach for the design and characterisation of in-process QC materials, illustrating it with a spike-in material containing an exogenous Arabidopsis sequence and DNA fragments approximating to ccfDNA and genomic DNA lengths. Protocols for inclusion of the spike-in material in plasma ccfDNA extraction and quantification of its recovery by digital PCR (dPCR) were assessed for their suitability for process QC in an inter-laboratory study between five expert laboratories, using a range of blood collection devices and ccfDNA extraction methods. The results successfully demonstrated that spiking plasmid-derived material into plasma did not deleteriously interfere with endogenous ccfDNA recovery. The approach performed consistently across a range of commonly-used extraction protocols and was able to highlight differences in efficiency and variability between the methods, with the dPCR quantification assay performing with good repeatability (generally CV <5%). We conclude that initial findings demonstrate that this approach appears "fit for purpose" and spike-in recovery can be combined with other extraction QC metrics for monitoring the performance of a process over time, or in the context of external quality assessment. AVAILABILITY OF DATA AND MATERIALS: Processed data is available in Supplementary File 4. Raw data available upon request. Declaration of Competing Interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalNew Biotechnology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Sept 2023


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