Circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) analysis is an important tool for cancer monitoring. The patient-specific mutations identified in colorectal cancer (CRC) tissues are usually used to design the cfDNA analysis. Despite high specificity in predicting relapse, the sensitivity in most studies is around 40–50%. To improve this weakness, we designed a cfDNA panel according to the CRC genomic landscape and recurrent-specific mutations. The pathological variants in cfDNA samples from 60 CRC patients were studied by a next-generation sequencing (NGS) method incorporating the dual molecular barcode. Interestingly, patients in the disease positive group had a significantly higher cfDNA concentration than those in the disease negative group. Based on receiver operating characteristic analysis, the cfDNA concentration of 7 ng/mL was selected into the analytical workflow. The sensitivity in determining the disease status was 72.4%, which represented a considerable improvement on prior studies, and the specificity remained high at 80.6%. Compared to standard imaging and laboratory studies, earlier detection of residual disease and clinical benefits were shown on two cases by this cfDNA assay. We conclude this integrative framework of cfDNA analytical pipeline with a satisfactory sensitivity and specificity could be used in postoperative CRC surveillance.
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