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More studies support value of liquid biopsy

March 21, 2019

Medical professional holding syringe.

Blood tests for cancer, also known as liquid biopsies, continue to show great promise in oncology, sometimes providing insights about treatment response earlier than conventional biopsy or CT scans.

Two new studies out of Johns Hopkins Medicine exemplify the progress.

In a study of 28 adults with nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSLC), patient response to treatment could be detected through a blood test four weeks earlier and with more accuracy than through CT imaging, according to a Johns Hopkins news release. The tests—which looked for tumor DNA circulating in the blood (ctDNA) – also improved prediction of clinical outcomes for patients whose CT scans were stable or didn’t show measurable disease.

A second study involved 38 patients with the same disease who received anti-PD1 therapy, which is intended to boost the immune response against cancer cells. Tumor responses to the therapy were found nearly nine weeks earlier using ctDNA than with conventional imaging.

“Our studies suggest that tests using blood samples will change the way cancer patients will be treated by helping to evaluate therapeutic responses more quickly and accurately, and avoid unneeded toxicity or ineffective treatments,” says Victor Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of cancer biology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

Predicting cancer’s next move

As we’ve blogged in the past, blood can tell us a lot about a person’s health. In September, we described how liquid biopsies were like weather forecasts, able to predict outcomes earlier than ever.

“Our study showed that liquid biopsies are better than traditional tissue biopsies at picking out people with bowel cancer whose tumors are unlikely to respond to a drug called cetuximab,” said study co-leader Dr. Nicola Valeri of the Institute of Cancer Research. “We also found that analyzing tumor DNA from frequent blood samples, which are already taken throughout a person’s treatment, can help predict cancer’s next move. Forecasting how tumors will evolve in individual people with bowel cancer could open up the very exciting possibility of using liquid biopsies for personalized, adaptive treatment.”

Blood and cancer tumor samples available for research

Blood is one of the most useful and sought-after biospecimens on the iSpecimen Marketplace. (We’ve blogged about the blood’s diagnostic value herehere and here.) Blood-derived specimens are available fresh or frozen, with or without additives, exhibiting specific analytes, and derived from patients with medical conditions—or no medical conditions at all.

Learn more about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified tissue and biofluid biospecimens or to request a quote or custom collection. You can join for free and creating a login is easy.

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