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March Specimen Spotlight: Developing the Liquid Biopsy

March 14, 2017

Blood Drop

Biopsy. The term implies surgery or special needles to determine if tissue is cancerous. An exciting alternative is emerging, the liquid biopsy, which uses an ordinary blood draw to detect cancer.

iSpecimen is on the forefront of enabling liquid biopsy development, supplying researchers with the biospecimens they need in hopes they can make this simple, noninvasive procedure commonplace.

Liquid biopsy is intended to detect blood-borne tumor DNA in the form of circulating free DNA (cfDNA), circulating tumor cells (CTCs), or exosomes. The diagnostic has the potential to overcome many of the challenges of traditional biopsies: difficulty in obtaining sufficient tissue, limited repeatability, and the inability to detect mutations occurring outside of the sample tissue. Mutations that could complicate treatment can be present at different tumor sites within a patient or even in the same tumor.

The simplicity of liquid biopsy also lends itself to frequent testing of a patient, which could be useful for early detection of cancer recurrence or mutation over time.

Liquid biopsy is currently the focus of countless biomedical studies. Our work in supporting its development has recently included these examples:

  • Sourcing fresh whole blood and fractioned plasma from locally advanced and/or metastatic breast cancer patients for a multinational molecular diagnostics company.
  • Sourcing plasma frozen for no more than one year from non-small cell lung cancer patients (NSCLC), past a certain level of staging and treatment, for a leading biotechnology company.
  • Sourcing matched sets of fresh whole blood and cancerous tissue from early stage breast, lung, and colon cancer patients prior to treatment for a cancer diagnostics company.

What’s really interesting about these queries is that they require samples from across different stages of cancer, from early to metastasized, indicating the aforementioned utility of liquid biopsy in assessing patients all along the disease trajectory. We will continue doing everything in our power to support new and better ways of detecting and monitoring cancer. Liquid biopsy is certainly a promising one.


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