With the advent of precision medicine, the field of medical oncology has dramatically renewed. Novel patient-tailored therapies has substantially enhanced all measurable outcomes. Liquid biopsy has unveiled the unexpected perspectives in healthcare with a revolution. The technique consists isolation and detection of circulating tumor exosomes and DNA, circulating tumor cells, as a source of proteomic and genomic information in patients with cancer. This new test has yielded a positive result examining eight different and common cancer types in thousand plus patients.
This out-of-the-box technique has resolved many technical hurdles with newly developed technique and next-generation sequencing analysis, letting a wide range of application of liquid biopsy in broad range of settings. At the initial stages, the technique was correlated to prognosis but now it gradually shifted towards cancer diagnosis. This is the hottest goals in cancer research, as it offers blood test that enables early detection of tumors and response or resistance to given treatments.
The tool could one day lead to a situation where catching tumors and screening patients before they cause symptoms. Various budding entrepreneurs are pursuing the prospect by investing more than $ 1 billion.
The root cause of cancer cells growth is genetic mutations. The Johns Hopkins group have shown that liquid biopsies of blood-borne tumor DNA can unveil whether a patient’s cancer should respond to a specific drug. However, detection of early stage tumors still poses a challenge. In 2016, launch of company named $ 1billion Grail by Illumnia uses big data approach which sequences hundreds of genes in thousands of cancer patients’ blood to find definitive set of DNA markers. With in-depth researches, the scientist were able to find positive detection rate tailed off when higher number genes added to these tests.
Liquid Biopsy’s Current Limitations
A clinical method is considered successful when it has ability to be reproduced by anyone that can follow the procedures. But variations in mutations and other indicators along with variations in development of type of cancer is a cumbersome situation for biomarkers to use liquid biopsy.
The key tenets of medicine is to ensure everything accomplished is for patient’s benefits. As in some cases aggressive cancer treatments may lead to a huge damage than another course of action. Liquid biopsies are known for early detection, however, there is fear that it may not be able to detect early stage tumors that stopped growing and some slow growing cancers. Treating these two tumors may be deleterious to the patient’s health.
Liquid biopsies to reach for wider application spectrum, scientists are required to standardize some parameters like distinguishing benign and cancerous tumors, detection of early stage cancer with reliable biomarkers and determining if the tumor is fast pace vs slow growing. In future, it should be able to offer real time results related to treatment effectiveness, so as, doctors could switch from ineffective treatment to more effective one.