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Researchers Report Progress in Liquid Biopsy for Breast Cancer

October 1, 2019

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October officially kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women with about 245,000 new cases and 41,000 deaths each year.

Deathrates have been declining, however, falling 40% from 1989 to 2016, with progress attributed to improvements in early detection. Advances in liquid biopsy, genetic sequencing and precision therapy hold potential for further progress.

For example, in a recent study at five UK hospitals, a personalized liquid biopsy detected the return of early breast cancer nearly 11 months before it was detectable in hospital scans. The test for circulating cancer DNA detected the return of the disease after treatment 10.7 months on average before patients developed symptoms or secondary tumors became visible on scans, according to the Institute of Cancer Research.

The liquid biopsy test was found to work in all types of breast cancer and could detect cancer’s spread around the body (except the brain), the ICR said. With further research into clinical application, early detection could enable earlier treatment and improved outcomes for patients. Trials are under way to assess new treatments.

In the study, blood samples were collected from participants every three months during their first year after treatment, and then every six months for up to five years thereafter. At follow-up of approximately three years, 29 of 144 patients had seen their breast cancer return. Twenty-three of the 29 patients had cancer DNA detected in their blood prior to relapse, with the liquid biopsies spotting the signs of recurrence on average 10.7 months before their clinical diagnosis.

In a second recent study, researchers used liquid biopsy to detect tumor mutations in HR-positive breast cancer patients that could indicate they might benefit from a special inhibitor.

Liquid biopsies tell us more

Liquid biopsies – which analyze blood and other human biofluids without the invasiveness of tissue biopsy –are evolving to better enable the identification of different actionable mutations for which there can be precision therapies, according to Aditya Bardia, MD, MPH,  an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“In the past, the value of liquid biopsy was to look at [circulating tumor cells], and multiple studies had shown that presence of CTCs in the blood was a bad prognostic sign,” he told Targeted Oncology. “The presence of CTCs was associated with a worse prognosis as compared [with] no CTCs.”

“Now with advances in technology—we can look at tumor fragments, which can tell us about mutations related to the cancer. If you have a genotype directed therapy or if you have a matched therapy against that mutation—that could potentially guide your decision making.”

Human biofluids in growing demand

iSpecimen has been playing a key role in liquid biopsy development by providing researchers with the human biofluids they need to conduct their work. Whether researchers need biofluids from patients with specific medical histories, with specific laboratory test results, or from healthy/normal donors, iSpecimen can help. Biofluids are available across a range of specimen types—and customized to meet specific processing and quick-turnaround delivery requirements. Biofluids offered include (but are not limited to) whole blood, urine, plasma (including double-spun), stool, serum, CSF, buffy coat, saliva, nasal, cheek, cervical, and other swabbed material. View full capabilities and case studies here.

We’re committed to supplying researchers with the human biospecimens they need to quickly and cost-effectively advance their efforts, and to helping our supplier partners efficiently distribute their specimens to the researchers who need them.

Millions of women (and men) depend on it.

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