ONCOLOGY UPDATE: USING LIQUID BIOPSY TO ASSESS CANCER CARE
BY Julia Evangelou Strait
Liquid biopsies for colorectal cancer detect tumor DNA that has broken free of the cancer and is circulating in the blood.. Image courtesy of Science Photo / KTSDESIGN
Cancer is most often detected using traditional tissue biopsy: the removal of tissue by needle, endoscope or open surgery. The tissue sample is then examined for the presence of cancer cells. Though the standard of care, this kind of biopsy comes with some limitations. Because the procedure is invasive, it can be risky, and recovery can be uncomfortable. Additionally, such a procedure may not be safe for some people and may not be practical for those needing a series of biopsies to monitor the progress of cancer treatment.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), “researchers have been exploring a new approach that could potentially complement or, in some cases, serve as an alternative to tissue biopsies.” That alternative is liquid biopsy, “which relies on analyzing bits of tumor material—molecules as well as whole cells—that are found in bodily fluids such as blood or urine.” While a few liquid biopsies have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, mostly for lung, breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, none have been approved for colorectal cancer.
Following are reports of two new studies at Washington University School of Medicine that are assessing new applications for this relatively new cancer-care tool.