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August 2, 2018
August Specimen Spotlight
Most any cancer is curable if diagnosed at its very onset. Unfortunately, that’s difficult to impossible – for now, anyway. Medicine is making great strides in earlier detection, however, as illustrated in the quest for “liquid biopsies.” These emerging diagnostic tools detect biomarkers in a blood sample rather than through a traditional surgical or multi-needle biopsy, which is typically conducted after worrisome symptoms appear.
The promise of early detection requires more samples and more data
Developing liquid biopsies is the mission of one of iSpecimen’s most exciting clients, currently focusing on bowel disease. A liquid biopsy could detect cancer even in its very earliest stages, and preclude the need for a colonoscopy if the result of the screen is negative. A positive screening would still require a diagnostic colonoscopy. As part of its research, our client is currently analyzing blood samples from a variety of patients on a large scale and comparing analytes circulating in the blood to that of patients with a range of diagnoses. The goal is to aggregate enough data, and learn enough from it, to spawn a liquid biopsy that can detect cancer in various patients who appear healthy.
Our client’s work involves very specific research requirements. We are prospectively collecting thousands of blood samples from patients across the country who have scheduled but not yet undergone a colonoscopy to check for polyps or cancer. We are also tracking these patients and conveying de-identified data about their results to the client. Simultaneously, we are prospectively collecting blood samples from patients who have had colonoscopies and are now scheduled for surgery.
Early cancer detection requires broad scope, complex logistics and urgent deadlines
To accomplish this massive custom collection, we have partnered with more than a dozen sites around the country that can provide freshly drawn blood samples and obtain patients’ explicit consent. It’s a complex task since the clinics that perform cancer surgeries are different from the sites that perform routine colonoscopies. What’s more, the blood samples must arrive at our client’s lab according to their detailed specifications .
With enough blood-based biomarkers and data to document them, medical professionals in the future will potentially be able to use our client’s diagnostic tools to diagnose, treat and cure patients before symptoms appear. This diagnostic capability is especially valuable for diseases like ovarian and pancreatic cancer, which are often detected in their later stages. With liquid biopsies, the medical procedures will be dictated by the makeup of the blood.
As a side benefit, patients at moderate risk for cancers might someday be able to offer a small vial of blood instead of undergoing uncomfortable and expensive colonoscopies or invasive surgical biopsies. Anyone who has undergone a colonoscopy will appreciate the convenience. Exchanging colonoscopies for blood draws, and curing cancer before it takes hold, will also deliver significant cost savings.
Managing complex specimen requirements, clients focus on advancing research
We spared our client enormous amounts of time and effort by taking on their substantial specimen collection tasks. We developed and approved one IRB protocol for the entire collection project. Then we vetted 50 supplier sites and established procedures to ensure that blood is delivered to our client within the requirements. We trained staff at those sites and built collection kits as well. Very few other organizations are equipped to design and manage a project of this scope and complexity.
Liquid biopsies are another example of how advanced medical technologies increasingly rely on samples of human biofluids, tissue and cells during the development stage, and how their ready availability can make or break the progress we all hope for.
A new, better way to get all the biospecimens you need for your research
Whether you’re looking for banked samples or need to arrange a custom collection, the iSpecimen Marketplace, with more than 25 million samples ready to ship, is a great place to start your search. See how it works in this video, then sign in to explore without obligation.
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