Public Release: 

Cancer researchers highlight the value of digital PCR in monitoring immunotherapy effectiveness at Precision Medicine World Conference


Santa Clara, Calif. -- January 21, 2019 -- Research that demonstrates how Bio-Rad's Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) technology can quickly help determine the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapies will be presented by cancer researchers and medical oncologists during a Bio-Rad workshop at the Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) in Santa Clara, California, January 20-23.

Immunotherapies such as the checkpoint inhibitors PD-L1 and CTLA-4 and a variety of adoptive cell therapies can be effective in treating multiple types of cancer, but these immunotherapies only work with some patients. And since immunotherapy drugs can produce severe immune-related adverse events (irAEs) in patients, including dysimmune colitis and interstitial pneumonitis, and more common AEs such as headache, fatigue, chest pain, and nausea, it's important to determine as early as possible whether the therapy is working or if it needs to be either adjusted or discontinued.

Research has shown that during the course of cancer therapy, tumor-specific genetic material, referred to as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), is released into a patient's bloodstream in characteristic temporal patterns that correlate with changes in tumor burden and help in determining therapy effectiveness. Serial sampling of the patient's blood, in a paradigm referred to as liquid biopsy, can be used to determine a patient's response or lack of response to a particular therapy.

Because ddPCR can directly detect and quantitate tumor DNA sequences in cell-free DNA without the need for intervening library construction, as is required in next-generation sequencing, the technology can be used to rapidly, precisely, and affordably monitor absolute ctDNA concentration changes over time. In addition, given its ability to sensitively detect one cancer-associated mutation among more than 1,000 wild-type copies, ddPCR can be used to reliably determine signs of treatment failure earlier than conventional standard-of-care practices.

"Oncologists rely on biomarkers to predict in advance whether or not patients will respond to immunotherapy, but the techniques used to detect these biomarkers, such as immunohistochemistry and the evaluation of microsatellite instability and tumor mutational burden, are imperfect predictors," said George Karlin-Neumann, PhD, Director of Scientific Affairs at Bio-Rad's Digital Biology Group and chair of the workshop session, "Emerging Tools for Immune Response Monitoring."

"Due to the potency of checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapies in treating various cancers and the potential intensity of their side effects, it's important to determine as early as possible once treatment has begun whether or not these drugs are working," Karlin-Neumann said.

Along with Karlin-Neumann, the workshop features panelists Jenny Lee, MD, PhD, medical oncologist and senior lecturer and clinical lead of the Precision Cancer Therapy Laboratory at Macquarie University, Sydney; Ed Schuuring, PhD, senior clinical scientist and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Pathology at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands; and Mark Raffeld, MD, Head of the Laboratory of Pathology's Molecular Diagnostics Unit at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland.

During the session, panelists will discuss how ddPCR technology can be used to monitor the effectiveness of several different types of immunotherapies, including checkpoint inhibitors and cellular immunotherapies such as chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T) and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). Data will be presented that demonstrate how ddPCR can determine within weeks how a patient is or is not responding to their immunotherapy treatment.


The hour-long workshop is at 11 AM Tuesday, January 21, as part of Track 2. Visit the conference website to learn more about the panelists.

Karlin-Neumann is giving a 15-minute talk discussing ddPCR technology and its applications during the Liquid Biopsy Showcase at 9:30 AM in Track 5, also on Tuesday, January 21.

To learn more about Droplet Digital PCR applications discussed at PMWC, please visit

Bio-Rad, Droplet Digital PCR, and ddPCR are trademarks of Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. in certain jurisdictions.

About Bio-Rad

Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) is a global leader in developing, manufacturing, and marketing a broad range of innovative products for the life science research and clinical diagnostic markets. With a focus on quality and customer service for over 65 years, our products advance the discovery process and improve healthcare. Our customers are university and research institutions, hospitals, public health and commercial laboratories, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, as well as applied laboratories that include food safety and environmental quality. Founded in 1952, Bio-Rad is based in Hercules, California, and has a global network of operations with more than 8,000 employees worldwide. Bio-Rad had revenues exceeding $2.1 billion in 2017. For more information, please visit

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