Cancer diagnosis at an earlier stages leads to better prognoses for patients. However, such detective work is constrained by the mechanics and specificity of current methods. Some of the factors that help in cancer diagnosis are – patients’ medical histories, physical exams and results of screening tests, such as those involving body fluids, images and tissue samples but they have significant limitations, particularly given the dynamic ability of cancer biology to change within and among a patient’s cancer cells as the disease progresses, spreads and responds to treatment. Liquid biopsies may help to revolutionize cancer research, patient treatment and survivor care by aggressively addressing such barriers.
Liquid biopsies are less invasive for patients and offer specificity, efficiency, and scalability. The technology can also come handy in treatment selection during routine clinical care, monitoring medication effects, identifying recurrent or minimal residual disease and, ideally, finding cancers in their most nascent stages and informing prognoses. Liquid biopsies can detect changes in tumour genetics well before imaging reveals changes in growth and this enable therapy modifications or earlier second-line interventions. They can be taken and analyzed quickly, for e.g., the cobas® EGFR Mutation Test v2 is reported to take less than four hours. Clinical trial teams can catch tumour progression earlier by reassessing patients’ responses to drugs with each blood draw, where the current practices involve waiting for weeks after treatment to use imaging to determine tumour shrinkage. Moreover, this technology can look for large collections of diverse mutations.
Whether at-risk populations or the worried well, liquid biopsies will be used to screen asymptomatic people in the long run. Identifying early pre-malignancies via liquid biopsies will need to reveal the origin certainly. This will define growth aggressiveness and necessity of treatment in terms of improved patient outcomes and acceptable pharmacoeconomics.