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Liquid biopsy is one important tool in the battle against cancer

January 28, 2021

Doctor with syringe

Medicine has made big strides against cancer, but “critical gaps” remain in the tools we have, the research we conduct, and coordination between researchers and caregivers, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

On the positive side, the cancer death rate has fallen by 29% from 1991 to 2017, a reduction equivalent to nearly 3 million lives, according to the “Blueprint for cancer research: Critical gaps and opportunities.” Yet in 2019, only about one-half of patients with cancer in the United States could be cured with existing therapies, and the remaining half were expected to die of their disease.


“Our overall goal is to motivate a strategy to develop novel approaches for cancer prevention, interception, treatment, and improvement of quality of life for cancer survivors,” the report says. Success depends in part on “a sustained research effort to develop the next generation of tools to understand, prevent, and better control all cancer types.”

Liquid biopsy complements the ‘gold standard’

The report spotlights liquid biopsy as one of the important tools for cancer screening, early detection, disease monitoring and risk assessment.

“Although a traditional tissue biopsy remains the gold standard for confirming a diagnosis of cancer…a liquid biopsy offers many advantages over a traditional biopsy. It is minimally invasive, not generally limited in terms of sample accessibility and availability, and practical for repeat sampling, which could help clinicians during screening and surveillance as well as postdiagnosis to better understand the molecular changes occurring in a tumor over time.”

Liquid biopsy is a test on a biospecimen, usually blood, to detect cancer biomarkers like circulating tumor cells or circulating tumor DNA. We blogged in July 2020 about advances in liquid biopsy research for brain and kidney cancers. A major goal, still out of reach, is a single test for most or all cancers.

We work closely with a number of researchers working to develop liquid biopsies, providing them with thousands of blood samples from patients who have specific types of cancer as well as from healthy normal controls. We agree that liquid biopsy is an important tool in the fight against cancer, and we will continue to support groundbreaking research in new year and beyond.

Read more about the liquid biopsy progress here, or listen to our podcast on Fast-Tracking Liquid Biopsy Development.

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