Liquid Biopsy & Cancer

Early detection of cancer offers the best chances of beating this disease. However, most tumors are not detected early enough and are only caught when it is too late when they have grown large and spread extensively in the body. This is the reason why a large number of researchers are working round the clock tirelessly in a bid to find new, better and effective ways of cancer screening to help in its early detection. One of the most innovative approaches that have been discovered is referred to as liquid biopsy. This approach screens for specific molecules that are released into the bloodstream by the tumors; more on liquid biopsy here.

Recent Reports on Liquid Biopsy

In the recent past, a research team funded by NIH released a positive report on the use of a liquid biopsy referred to as CancerSEEK. CancerSEEK managed to detect around eight different types of cancer by analyzing blood samples for eight segments and proteins of sixteen genes. This liquid biopsy was successful in detecting various kinds of cancer, which included a number of the highly lethal types like liver, ovarian and pancreatic cancer. These highly lethal kinds of cancer previously lacked screening tests.


In a study that involved 1,005 people who had one of the eight tumor-types in their early stages, CancerSEEK managed to detect the cancer present in their blood around 70% of the time. This is one of the best performances that have been posted by a blood test so far. The CancerSEEK returned false-positive results when it was administered on 812 people who were healthy. The test can be run cheaply at an estimated cost of that does not exceed $500. 

How Does CancerSEEK Work?

Cancer spreads and arises when individual cells undergo gene mutations thereby dysregulating their usual growth and letting them divide in the absence of the customary restraints. When the group of cancer cells expands, a number of cells die and some bits made up of the mutated DNA ends up in the patient’s bloodstream. The liquid biopsies work by searching the blood for these bits that contain the mutated DNA that are linked with cancer. The FDA in 2016 gave its approval to the first liquid biopsy test to help in detecting one mutation present in patients suffering from the non-small cell lung cancer. The approval was meant to act as a guide to treatment decisions for people who were already suffering from this type of cancer. However, developing a liquid biopsy test that will make it possible to screen healthy people for a number of cancers has proven to be quite a challenge. 

Whenever a patient discovers a chary lump or signs, the doctor performs a tissue biopsy to get cells for a closer examination. The liquid biopsy test will determine whether cancer is present, the type and offer clues on the best prognosis for a patient. The molecular analysis of the tissue biopsy sample also helps reveal information, which may assist in developing a personalized treatment strategy. 

Going Forward

A team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine invented a liquid biopsy to check multiple genes that are usually mutated in general cancers. The study was reported by the Science journal. The test had over 2,000 positions in about 16 diverse genes, which they forecasted would be successful in catching a momentous proportion of the eight universal cancers. The researchers had suspicions that DNA substantiation alone cannot be enough to properly identify all the cancers or where it originated. The researchers consulted scientific literature in order to find proteins they can add to their panel in order to make a better test. It will take time for all the answers to be found but Papadopoulos reports that they are still pushing on in order to come up with a great test. 

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