Finding Waldo: The Evolving Paradigm of Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA)—Guided Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) Assessment in Colorectal Cancer (CRC)

Sakti Chakrabarti, Anup Kumar Kasi, Aparna R. Parikh, Amit Mahipal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), the tumor-derived cell-free DNA fragments in the bloodstream carrying tumor-specific genetic and epigenetic alterations, represents an emerging novel tool for minimal residual disease (MRD) assessment in patients with resected colorectal cancer (CRC). For many decades, precise risk-stratification following curative-intent colorectal surgery has remained an enduring challenge. The current risk stratification strategy relies on clinicopathologic characteristics of the tumors that lacks precision and results in over-and undertreatment in a significant proportion of patients. Consequently, a biomarker that can reliably identify patients harboring MRD would be of critical importance in refining patient selection for adjuvant therapy. Several prospective cohort studies have provided compelling data suggesting that ctDNA could be a robust biomarker for MRD that outperforms all existing clinicopathologic criteria. Numerous clinical trials are currently underway to validate the ctDNA-guided MRD assessment and adjuvant treatment strategies. Once validated, the ctDNA technology will likely transform the adjuvant therapy paradigm of colorectal cancer, supporting ctDNA-guided treatment escalation and de-escalation. The current article presents a comprehensive overview of the published studies supporting the utility of ctDNA for MRD assessment in patients with CRC. We also discuss ongoing ctDNA-guided adjuvant clinical trials that will likely shape future adjuvant therapy strategies for patients with CRC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3078
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • adjuvant chemotherapy
  • circulating tumor DNA
  • colon cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • minimal residual disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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