Bio

Bio


My research interests are focused on developing novel methods for detecting, monitoring, and treating hematologic malignancies; particularly non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs). I aim to create tools to rapidly detect and quantify tumors and their response to chemotherapy and immunotherapy, thereby enabling personalized therapies. Toward this end, I utilize tools from a wide range of disciplines, including bioengineering, computational biology, and medical oncology. I previously implemented high-throughput sequencing of the immunoglobulin genes from plasma cell-free DNA for detection of diffuse large B cell and follicular lymphomas (DLBCL and FL), the two most common types of lymphoma. This work demonstrated the superior efficacy of this assay from cell-free DNA as compared to circulating white blood cells, and has led to its translation to the clinic. Recently, I have implemented targeted next-generation sequencing for ultra-sensitive detection of circulating tumor DNA utilizing Cancer Personalized Profiling by Deep Sequencing, or CAPP-Seq, for use in NHLs. This work has led to a number of important applications in the field, including early detection of disease relapse, non-invasive genotyping of tumors, and detection of transformation of follicular lymphoma into DLBCL.

Clinical Focus


  • Medical Oncology

Academic Appointments


Honors & Awards


  • Physician-Scientist Training Award, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (2016-2018)
  • Åke Bertil Eriksson Endowed Young Investigator Award, ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation (2016)
  • Lymphoma Clinical Research Mentoring Program Scholar, Lymphoma Research Foundation (2014)

Professional Education


  • Residency:Stanford University Internal Medicine Residency Training (2011) CA
  • Fellowship:Stanford University Hematology and Oncology Program (2018) CA
  • Fellowship:Stanford University Hematology and Oncology Program (2017) CA
  • Board Certification: Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine (2016)
  • Board Certification: Medical Oncology, American Board of Internal Medicine (2016)
  • Medical Education:Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (2009) MN

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


Implementation of noninvasive detection of malignancies in the clinic remains difficult due to both technical and clinical challenges. These include necessary improvements in sensitivity and specificity of biomarkers, as well as demonstration of clinical utility of these assays. My research focuses on technical development and implementation of assays to detect and track cancers in order to facilitate personalized disease management. This includes development of methods to detect non-Hodgkin lymphoma through circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), as well as defining the clinical utility of this assay. My current research is focused on utilizing ctDNA to answer clinically relevant questions, enabling personalized treatment paradigms.

Publications

All Publications


  • High-throughput sequencing for noninvasive disease detection in hematologic malignancies. Blood Scherer, F., Kurtz, D. M., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. 2017; 130 (4): 440–52

    Abstract

    Noninvasive monitoring of minimal residual disease (MRD) has led to significant advances in personalized management of patients with hematologic malignancies. Improved therapeutic options and prolonged survival have further increased the need for sensitive tumor assessment that can inform treatment decisions and patient outcomes. At diagnosis or relapse of most hematologic neoplasms, malignant cells are often easily accessible in the blood as circulating tumor cells (CTCs), making them ideal targets to noninvasively profile the molecular features of each patient. In other cancer types, CTCs are generally rare and noninvasive molecular detection relies on circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) shed from tumor deposits into circulation. The ability to precisely detect and quantify CTCs and ctDNA could minimize invasive procedures and improve prediction of clinical outcomes. Technical advances in MRD detection methods in recent years have led to reduced costs and increased sensitivity, specificity, and applicability. Among currently available tests, high-throughput sequencing (HTS)-based approaches are increasingly attractive for noninvasive molecular testing. HTS-based methods can simultaneously identify multiple genetic markers with high sensitivity and specificity without individual optimization. In this review, we present an overview of techniques used for noninvasive molecular disease detection in selected myeloid and lymphoid neoplasms, with a focus on the current and future role of HTS-based assays.

    View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2017-03-735639

    View details for PubMedID 28600337

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5881609

  • Early detection of molecular residual disease in localized lung cancer by circulating tumor DNA profiling. Cancer discovery Chaudhuri, A. A., Chabon, J. J., Lovejoy, A. F., Newman, A. M., Stehr, H., Azad, T. D., Khodadoust, M. S., Esfahani, M. S., Liu, C. L., Zhou, L., Scherer, F., Kurtz, D. M., Say, C., Carter, J. N., Merriott, D. J., Dudley, J. C., Binkley, M. S., Modlin, L., Padda, S. K., Gensheimer, M. F., West, R. B., Shrager, J. B., Neal, J. W., Wakelee, H. A., Loo, B. W., Alizadeh, A. A., Diehn, M. 2017

    Abstract

    Identifying molecular residual disease (MRD) after treatment of localized lung cancer could facilitate early intervention and personalization of adjuvant therapies. Here we apply Cancer Personalized Profiling by Deep Sequencing (CAPP-Seq) circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis to 255 samples from 40 patients treated with curative intent for stage I-III lung cancer and 54 healthy adults. In 94% of evaluable patients experiencing recurrence, ctDNA was detectable in the first post-treatment blood sample, indicating reliable identification of MRD. Post-treatment ctDNA detection preceded radiographic progression in 72% of patients by a median of 5.2 months and 53% of patients harbored ctDNA mutation profiles associated with favorable responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors or immune checkpoint blockade. Collectively, these results indicate that ctDNA MRD in lung cancer patients can be accurately detected using CAPP-Seq and may allow personalized adjuvant treatment while disease burden is lowest.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-17-0716

    View details for PubMedID 28899864

  • Molecular profiling of single circulating tumor cells from lung cancer patients PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Park, S., Wong, D. J., Ooi, C. C., Kurtz, D. M., Vermesh, O., Aalipour, A., Suh, S., Pian, K. L., Chabon, J. J., Lee, S. H., Jamali, M., Say, C., Carter, J. N., Lee, L. P., Kuschner, W. G., Schwartz, E. J., Shrager, J. B., Neal, J. W., Wakelee, H. A., Diehn, M., Nair, V. S., Wang, S. X., Gambhir, S. S. 2016; 113 (52): E8379-E8386

    Abstract

    Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are established cancer biomarkers for the "liquid biopsy" of tumors. Molecular analysis of single CTCs, which recapitulate primary and metastatic tumor biology, remains challenging because current platforms have limited throughput, are expensive, and are not easily translatable to the clinic. Here, we report a massively parallel, multigene-profiling nanoplatform to compartmentalize and analyze hundreds of single CTCs. After high-efficiency magnetic collection of CTC from blood, a single-cell nanowell array performs CTC mutation profiling using modular gene panels. Using this approach, we demonstrated multigene expression profiling of individual CTCs from non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with remarkable sensitivity. Thus, we report a high-throughput, multiplexed strategy for single-cell mutation profiling of individual lung cancer CTCs toward minimally invasive cancer therapy prediction and disease monitoring.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1608461113

    View details for Web of Science ID 000391090800003

    View details for PubMedID 27956614

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5206556

  • Distinct biological subtypes and patterns of genome evolution in lymphoma revealed by circulating tumor DNA SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE Scherer, F., Kurtz, D. M., Newman, A. M., Stehr, H., Craig, A. F., Esfahani, M. S., Lovejoy, A. F., Chabon, J. J., Klass, D. M., Liu, C. L., Zhou, L., Glover, C., Visser, B. C., Poultsides, G. A., Advani, R. H., Maeda, L. S., Gupta, N. K., Levy, R., Ohgami, R. S., Kunder, C. A., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. 2016; 8 (364)

    Abstract

    Patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) exhibit marked diversity in tumor behavior and outcomes, yet the identification of poor-risk groups remains challenging. In addition, the biology underlying these differences is incompletely understood. We hypothesized that characterization of mutational heterogeneity and genomic evolution using circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) profiling could reveal molecular determinants of adverse outcomes. To address this hypothesis, we applied cancer personalized profiling by deep sequencing (CAPP-Seq) analysis to tumor biopsies and cell-free DNA samples from 92 lymphoma patients and 24 healthy subjects. At diagnosis, the amount of ctDNA was found to strongly correlate with clinical indices and was independently predictive of patient outcomes. We demonstrate that ctDNA genotyping can classify transcriptionally defined tumor subtypes, including DLBCL cell of origin, directly from plasma. By simultaneously tracking multiple somatic mutations in ctDNA, our approach outperformed immunoglobulin sequencing and radiographic imaging for the detection of minimal residual disease and facilitated noninvasive identification of emergent resistance mutations to targeted therapies. In addition, we identified distinct patterns of clonal evolution distinguishing indolent follicular lymphomas from those that transformed into DLBCL, allowing for potential noninvasive prediction of histological transformation. Collectively, our results demonstrate that ctDNA analysis reveals biological factors that underlie lymphoma clinical outcomes and could facilitate individualized therapy.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8545

    View details for Web of Science ID 000389448100006

    View details for PubMedID 27831904

  • Circulating tumour DNA profiling reveals heterogeneity of EGFR inhibitor resistance mechanisms in lung cancer patients NATURE COMMUNICATIONS Chabon, J. J., Simmons, A. D., Lovejoy, A. F., Esfahani, M. S., Newman, A. M., Haringsma, H. J., Kurtz, D. M., Stehr, H., Scherer, F., Karlovich, C. A., Harding, T. C., Durkin, K. A., Otterson, G. A., Purcell, W. T., Camidge, D. R., Goldman, J. W., Sequist, L. V., Piotrowska, Z., Wakelee, H. A., Neal, J. W., Alizadeh, A. A., Diehn, M. 2016; 7

    Abstract

    Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) analysis facilitates studies of tumour heterogeneity. Here we employ CAPP-Seq ctDNA analysis to study resistance mechanisms in 43 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients treated with the third-generation epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor rociletinib. We observe multiple resistance mechanisms in 46% of patients after treatment with first-line inhibitors, indicating frequent intra-patient heterogeneity. Rociletinib resistance recurrently involves MET, EGFR, PIK3CA, ERRB2, KRAS and RB1. We describe a novel EGFR L798I mutation and find that EGFR C797S, which arises in ∼33% of patients after osimertinib treatment, occurs in <3% after rociletinib. Increased MET copy number is the most frequent rociletinib resistance mechanism in this cohort and patients with multiple pre-existing mechanisms (T790M and MET) experience inferior responses. Similarly, rociletinib-resistant xenografts develop MET amplification that can be overcome with the MET inhibitor crizotinib. These results underscore the importance of tumour heterogeneity in NSCLC and the utility of ctDNA-based resistance mechanism assessment.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms11815

    View details for Web of Science ID 000378007200001

    View details for PubMedID 27283993

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4906406

  • Integrated digital error suppression for improved detection of circulating tumor DNA NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY Newman, A. M., Lovejoy, A. F., Klass, D. M., Kurtz, D. M., Chabon, J. J., Scherer, F., Stehr, H., Liu, C. L., Bratman, S. V., Say, C., Zhou, L., Carter, J. N., West, R. B., Sledge, G. W., Shrager, J. B., Loo, B. W., Neal, J. W., Wakelee, H. A., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. 2016; 34 (5): 547-555

    Abstract

    High-throughput sequencing of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) promises to facilitate personalized cancer therapy. However, low quantities of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in the blood and sequencing artifacts currently limit analytical sensitivity. To overcome these limitations, we introduce an approach for integrated digital error suppression (iDES). Our method combines in silico elimination of highly stereotypical background artifacts with a molecular barcoding strategy for the efficient recovery of cfDNA molecules. Individually, these two methods each improve the sensitivity of cancer personalized profiling by deep sequencing (CAPP-Seq) by about threefold, and synergize when combined to yield ∼15-fold improvements. As a result, iDES-enhanced CAPP-Seq facilitates noninvasive variant detection across hundreds of kilobases. Applied to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, our method enabled biopsy-free profiling of EGFR kinase domain mutations with 92% sensitivity and >99.99% specificity at the variant level, and with 90% sensitivity and 96% specificity at the patient level. In addition, our approach allowed monitoring of NSCLC ctDNA down to 4 in 10(5) cfDNA molecules. We anticipate that iDES will aid the noninvasive genotyping and detection of ctDNA in research and clinical settings.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nbt.3520

    View details for Web of Science ID 000375735000036

    View details for PubMedID 27018799

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4907374

  • Organocatalytic removal of formaldehyde adducts from RNA and DNA bases. Nature chemistry Karmakar, S., Harcourt, E. M., Hewings, D. S., Scherer, F., Lovejoy, A. F., Kurtz, D. M., Ehrenschwender, T., Barandun, L. J., Roost, C., Alizadeh, A. A., Kool, E. T. 2015; 7 (9): 752-758

    Abstract

    Formaldehyde is universally used to fix tissue specimens, where it forms hemiaminal and aminal adducts with biomolecules, hindering the ability to retrieve molecular information. Common methods for removing these adducts involve extended heating, which can cause extensive degradation of nucleic acids, particularly RNA. Here, we show that water-soluble bifunctional catalysts (anthranilates and phosphanilates) speed the reversal of formaldehyde adducts of mononucleotides over standard buffers. Studies with formaldehyde-treated RNA oligonucleotides show that the catalysts enhance adduct removal, restoring unmodified RNA at 37 °C even when extensively modified, while avoiding the high temperatures that promote RNA degradation. Experiments with formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cell samples show that the catalysis is compatible with common RNA extraction protocols, with detectable RNA yields increased by 1.5-2.4-fold using a catalyst under optimized conditions and by 7-25-fold compared with a commercial kit. Such catalytic strategies show promise for general use in reversing formaldehyde adducts in clinical specimens.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nchem.2307

    View details for PubMedID 26291948

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4545578

  • Organocatalytic removal of formaldehyde adducts from RNA and DNA bases NATURE CHEMISTRY Karmakar, S., Harcourt, E. M., Hewings, D. S., Lovejoy, A. F., Kurtz, D. M., Ehrenschwender, T., Barandun, L. J., Roost, C., Alizadeh, A. A., Kool, E. T. 2015; 7 (9): 752-758

    View details for DOI 10.1038/NCHEM.2307

    View details for Web of Science ID 000360191800014

  • Next-generation surveillance strategies for patients with lymphoma. Future oncology Cohen, J. B., Kurtz, D. M., Staton, A. D., Flowers, C. R. 2015; 11 (13): 1977-1991

    Abstract

    While remission and cure rates for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma continue to improve, surveillance approaches remain controversial, especially in light of recent reports suggesting limited benefit for routine radiologic assessment. Routine cross-sectional imaging results in considerable patient expense and anxiety, and this approach does not clearly improve patient outcomes. Next-generation approaches including minimal residual disease detection may provide an opportunity to identify relapse early and intervene prior to progression of clinical disease. This review discusses the role of surveillance imaging in Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and provides an introduction to serologic assessment of minimal residual disease. Future studies will need to focus on the clinical application of minimal residual disease surveillance and its ability to predict relapse, treatment response and survival.

    View details for DOI 10.2217/fon.15.92

    View details for PubMedID 26161931

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4519355

  • Noninvasive monitoring of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma by immunoglobulin high-throughput sequencing. Blood Kurtz, D. M., Green, M. R., Bratman, S. V., Scherer, F., Liu, C. L., Kunder, C. A., Takahashi, K., Glover, C., Keane, C., Kihira, S., Visser, B., Callahan, J., Kong, K. A., Faham, M., Corbelli, K. S., Miklos, D., Advani, R. H., Levy, R., Hicks, R. J., Hertzberg, M., Ohgami, R. S., Gandhi, M. K., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. 2015; 125 (24): 3679-3687

    Abstract

    Recent studies have shown limited utility of routine surveillance imaging for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) patients achieving remission. Detection of molecular disease by immunoglobulin high-throughput sequencing (Ig-HTS) from peripheral blood provides an alternate strategy for surveillance. We prospectively evaluated the utility of Ig-HTS within 311 blood and 105 tumor samples from 75 patients with DLBCL, comparing Ig-HTS from the cellular (circulating leukocytes) and acellular (plasma cell-free DNA) compartments of peripheral blood to clinical outcomes and (18)fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography combined with computed tomography (PET/CT; n = 173). Clonotypic immunoglobulin rearrangements were detected in 83% of patients with adequate tumor samples to enable subsequent monitoring in peripheral blood. Molecular disease measured from plasma, compared with circulating leukocytes, was more abundant and better correlated with radiographic disease burden. Before treatment, molecular disease was detected in the plasma of 82% of patients compared with 71% in circulating cells (P = .68). However, molecular disease was detected significantly more frequently in the plasma at time of relapse (100% vs 30%; P = .001). Detection of molecular disease in the plasma often preceded PET/CT detection of relapse in patients initially achieving remission. During surveillance time points before relapse, plasma Ig-HTS demonstrated improved specificity (100% vs 56%, P < .0001) and similar sensitivity (31% vs 55%, P = .4) compared with PET/CT. Given its high specificity, Ig-HTS from plasma has potential clinical utility for surveillance after complete remission.

    View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2015-03-635169

    View details for PubMedID 25887775

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4463733

  • Tracking Cellular and Immune Therapies in Cancer EMERGING APPLICATIONS OF MOLECULAR IMAGING TO ONCOLOGY Kurtz, D. M., Gambhir, S. S. 2014; 124: 257-296

    Abstract

    The field of tumor immunology has seen an explosion of renewed interest over the last decade. With the FDA approval of new immunotherapies for prostate cancer and melanoma, as well as several exciting new drugs in clinical trials, tumor immunology is becoming an increasingly important topic in preclinical studies and patient care. However, the current methods for assessing the immune status of a patient and tumor are limited, which has led to the development of novel molecular imaging methods for assessing tumor immunology. From cell tracking for cellular therapeutics to assessing the tumor immune microenvironment, these imaging methods have the potential to further preclinical understanding of immunotherapies and potentially translate into clinically useful tests to predict and assess therapeutic response of these exciting new agents. In this review, we first discuss the recent advances in cancer immunotherapy, followed by a detailed review of the current state of molecular imaging for tumor immunology. Finally, we discuss opportunities for further development and innovation in this rapidly growing field.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-411638-2.00008-2

    View details for Web of Science ID 000344511500008

  • Tracking cellular and immune therapies in cancer. Advances in cancer research Kurtz, D. M., Gambhir, S. S. 2014; 124: 257-296

    Abstract

    The field of tumor immunology has seen an explosion of renewed interest over the last decade. With the FDA approval of new immunotherapies for prostate cancer and melanoma, as well as several exciting new drugs in clinical trials, tumor immunology is becoming an increasingly important topic in preclinical studies and patient care. However, the current methods for assessing the immune status of a patient and tumor are limited, which has led to the development of novel molecular imaging methods for assessing tumor immunology. From cell tracking for cellular therapeutics to assessing the tumor immune microenvironment, these imaging methods have the potential to further preclinical understanding of immunotherapies and potentially translate into clinically useful tests to predict and assess therapeutic response of these exciting new agents. In this review, we first discuss the recent advances in cancer immunotherapy, followed by a detailed review of the current state of molecular imaging for tumor immunology. Finally, we discuss opportunities for further development and innovation in this rapidly growing field.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-411638-2.00008-2

    View details for PubMedID 25287692