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BACKGROUND: The capacity for invasive tissue biopsies followed by histopathology diagnosis in sub-Saharan Africa is severely limited. Consequently, many cancer patients are diagnosed late and outcomes are poor. Here, we propose to evaluate circulating tumour (ct) DNA analysis ("liquid biopsy"), a less invasive and faster approach to diagnose endemic EBV-driven lymphomas (EBVL) in East Africa. METHODS: We will evaluate the clinical utility of an already validated ctDNA test prospectively in a head-to-head comparison against histopathology. The primary endpoint is the time from presentation to the specialist centre to a final diagnosis of EBV- Lymphoma. Secondary endpoints include the sensitivity and specificity of liquid biopsy and health economic benefits over histopathology. One hundred forty-six patients will be recruited over 18 months. Patients will be eligible if they are 3-30 years of age and have provided written consent or assent as per IRB guidelines. Tissue and venous blood samples will be processed as per established protocols. Clinical data will be captured securely and in real-time into a REDCap database. The time from presentation to diagnosis will be documented. The sensitivity and specificity of the methods can be estimated within 5% error margin with 95% confidence level using 73 cases and 73 controls. Health-economic assessment will include micro-costing of ctDNA test and histopathology. All results will be reviewed in a multidisciplinary tumour board. DISCUSSION: The study evaluates the clinical utility of ctDNA in improving the speed of diagnostic pathways for EBVL in sub-Saharan Africa. Our results would provide proof-of-principle that ctDNA can be used as a diagnostic tool in areas without access to regular pathology, that transfer of the tool is feasible, and that it leads to an earlier and faster diagnosis. The potential clinical and economic impact of this proposal is thus significant. If successful, this study will provide appropriate, and cost-effective diagnostic tools that will promote earlier diagnosis of EBVL and potentially other cancers in countries with restricted healthcare resources. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trials Registry:  PACTR202204822312651 , registered on 14th-April-2022.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Cancer

Publication Date





EBV-driven lymphoma, East Africa, Histopathology, Liquid biopsy, Protocol, ctDNA, Africa, Eastern, Biomarkers, Tumor, Child, Circulating Tumor DNA, Herpesvirus 4, Human, Humans, Liquid Biopsy, Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin, Neoplasms, Young Adult