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Less Intrusive ‘Liquid Biopsy’ Could Uncover Cancer Sooner

Doctors are now using an innovative new technique to monitor cancer. The procedure, called “liquid biopsy,” is done on a sample of blood to look for pieces of DNA from tumor cells that are in the blood or cancer cells from a tumor circulating in the blood. Doctors hope that this new test will also identify specific biomarkers that will detect tumors that will be resistant to potential therapies. They also believe that the test will detect the reappearance of cancer far earlier and more accurately than other procedures such as CT Scans and surgical biopsies.

Liquid biopsies are non-invasive, so doctors can conduct tests faster and more frequently than more invasive tests. “Being able to take multiple samples of blood over time,” says the National Cancer Institute (NCI), “may also help doctors understand what kind of molecular changes are taking place in a tumor.” The liquid biopsy method is being used at cancer centers around the world, but research is still ongoing. One of the largest studies was conducted by NCI. Results showed that the liquid biopsy procedure was so accurate, it predicted cancer’s return a noteworthy three months earlier than a CT scan would have.

Dr. Sarat Chandarlapaty, physician-scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), says that studies “provide a glimpse into how the liquid biopsy has emerged as a powerful diagnostic and treatment tool for people with cancer.” Per MSKCC, “Dr. Chandarlapaty emphasized the essential role this technique will play in guiding the development of new therapies.


Johnson, Mark. "'Liquid Biopsies' Could Revolutionize Cancer Detection." Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NCI NIH). The National Institutes of Health (NIH), n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

Stallard, Jim. "Liquid Biopsy Shown to Be Effective in Assessing Response to Breast." Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), 11 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

"Surgical Biopsy." Canadian Cancer Society, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.