BACKGROUND: Previous studies have demonstrated that donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) found in circulating blood of transplant recipients may serve as a noninvasive biomarker of allograft rejection. To better interpret the clinical meaning of dd-cfDNA, it is essential to understand the biological variation of this biomarker in stable healthy recipients. This report establishes the biological variation and clinical reference intervals of dd-cfDNA in renal transplant recipients by using an analytically validated assay that has a CV of 6.8%. METHODS: We sampled venous blood at patient surveillance visits (typically at posttransplant months 1-4, 6, 9, and 12) in a 14-center observational study. Patients with stable renal allograft function spanning ≥3 serial visits were selected. We used AlloSure®, a targeted next-generation sequencing-based approach, to measure dd-cfDNA in the plasma and computed the intraindividual CV (CVI) and interindividual CV (CVG), the index of individuality (II), and reference change value (RCV). RESULTS: Of 93 patients, 61% were men, 56% were Caucasian, mean age was 49 years, and 63% were deceased donor kidney recipients. Of 380 blood samples, the dd-cfDNA median value was 0.21% (interquartile range 0.12%-0.39%) and the 97.5th percentile was 1.20%. In 18 patients with an average of 4.1 tests, the CVI was 21%, CVG was 37%, II was 0.57, and RCV was 61%. CONCLUSIONS: In a renal transplant recipient, a dd-cfDNA level above 1.2% is out of range and potentially abnormal. A serial increase of up to 61% in level of dd-cfDNA in a patient may be attributable to biological variation.Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02424227.
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© 2017 American Association for Clinical Chemistry.