Pharmaceutical company Roche continues to innovate and develop diagnostic methods with “Liquid Biopsy” that are simple and non-invasive alternative methods (painless) compared to surgical biopsies that allow doctors to find a variety of information about tumors through simple blood samples.
What is Liquid Biopsy?
Liquid biopsy or fluid biopsy is a simple and painless alternative method compared to surgical biopsies, by using sampling and analysis of non-solid biological tissues, especially blood.
Unlike traditional biopsies, which produce only results from one place at a time, liquid biopsies use simple blood retrieval, and thus can be safely performed repeatedly, as often as necessary, to detect the patient’s disease status.
Liquid biopsy benefits
Here are some of the main benefits that liquid biopsies offer:
More patients can be tested
One of the biggest problems with surgical biopsies is that certain tumors are inaccessible, for example tumors in the brain. Some tumors are also too small to get tissue samples. About 30% of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients fall into this latter category.
This method is not invasive
It is a much friendlier option in patients than surgery. Taking a person’s blood is much faster, simpler, cheaper, painless and risk-free than performing surgery. Liquid biopsies are especially beneficial for patients who are too sick to undergo surgery.
This method provides a more complete picture
Surgical biopsies provide a static and partial picture of a single tumor. Liquid biopsies can identify potential secondary tumors and also allow practitioners to provide much more accurate mapping how far the cancer is progressing.
This method is more flexible
Liquid biopsies can be performed several times given how simple it is to take blood. This is especially important because cancer is not a stationary disease, but it evolves all the time. Therefore, liquid biopsies allow doctors to stay one step ahead. By constantly monitoring the patient’s blood, they can find out if the treatment plan is successful, or a new one is needed because the cancer has mutated and the drugs are no longer effective. The result is a much more tailored approach to the needs of individual care.
This method may prevent relapse
The technology is now becoming so sophisticated that liquid biopsies have the potential to detect recurrence even before the presence of clinical symptoms. Doctors can actively monitor patients who are in remission, but their blood samples show a higher risk of relapse.
Why do a liquid biopsy?
Research shows that solid tumor recurrences such as lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer can be detected using liquid biopsy techniques. Unlike conventional biopsies where the needle is inserted into the tumor tissue to observe the tissue taken from the needle so that it can be accurately enforced, the liquid biopsy sampling from the peripheral blood.
Blood collected through liquid biopsy will be separated based on plasma components and white blood cell components (leukocytes). Depending on the need and diagnostic importance, the laboratory can test the genetic profile plasma or white blood cells.
Because cancer has accumulated genetic mutations, the gene mutation profile becomes useful to monitor the occurrence of post-therapy recurrence.
The concept of sampling to monitor recurrence has been routinely applied in cases of leukemia, especially in cases of CML (Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or known as Chronic Granulocytic Leukemia (CGL)).
Why can a liquid biopsy be done for cancer detection?
Liquid biopsy tests that can detect mutations of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) genes were performed at 10 to 35 percent with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. This will help the doctor in diagnosing and can quickly conduct the selection of the right medication for the patient.
Initial research of this liquid biopsy has been conducted on lung, breast and pros**tate cancers, this technology therapy is expected to have an impact on all types of cancer. Liquid biopsy requires only 5 milliliters of blood, in the sense that it is easier to tolerate patients with a faster process than surgical biopsies.
Tolerability and comfort are great encouragement for patients. The greatest benefit lies in the potential for liquid biopsies to detect disease progression or treatment resistance, long before it will trigger clinical symptoms or appear in the results of imaging scans.
Most cancers have multiple genetic mutations and they may not occur in the same people in all parts of the cancer. Tissue samples taken for biopsies may not display all mutations while liquid biopsies offer a better chance of detecting genetic changes.
Is this the end of a tissue biopsy?
Liquid biopsies have the potential to revolutionize cancer treatments. However, there are challenges to expanding the use of this new approach and there is still a place for tissue biopsies. Far from overdoing it, taking and testing tissue samples remains an important standard.
For liquid biopsies, it is still relatively early and some questions still have to be answered. For example, to what extent does the accuracy of the test vary between the type of tumor and the stage of the disease? Does a liquid biopsy provide a representative example of all genetic clones in a tumor or is there a bias to a specific sub-region? Researchers are currently working to answer these questions.
A liquid biopsy will complement the tissue biopsy, allowing more patients to be tested.
Validation in advanced clinical trials is required for the value of fluid biopsies in medical settings. While liquid biopsies inform lung cancer treatment decisions with EGFR mutations, targeted therapies are not yet available for all cancers.
However, the rapid advancement of scientific knowledge, researchers are learning more about the potential for liquid biopsies to detect mutations, suggesting that the promise and power of this diagnostic technology could be truly changing the future in terms of early diagnosing cancer.