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Liquid biopsies effective at testing treatment response

Liquid biopsies are blood tests that detect circulating tumor DNA to determine if a treatment's effect is diminishing and may explain the reasons why.

By Amy Wallace
Liquid biopsies effective at testing treatment response
Researchers have found that liquid biopsies are a more effective and less invasive way to determine if cancer treatments are becoming less effective and why. Photo by Shutterstock/royaltystockphoto/UPI

June 30 (UPI) -- Researchers are using liquid biopsies to not only detect circulating tumor DNA, or ctDNA, to determine if a treatment is no longer working, but may be able to use them to find out why.

Liquid biopsies are a less invasive way to find if a cancer treatment is losing its efficacy via a blood test. Traditional methods to determine the progress of a drug's tumor-fighting ability involve invasive biopsies and expensive imaging scans.

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"We have shown that integrating regular liquid biopsies into our patients' routine care is feasible and easily incorporated into clinical practice," Dr. Aparna Parikh, of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, said in a press release.

"This technology can precisely help us understand each patient's individual disease course and allows us to tailor care based on an understanding of their specific disease biology."

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For the study, the results of which are to be presented at the 19th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer, researchers analyzed data from 40 patients with various forms of gastrointestinal cancers who stopped responding to therapy after initially responding to treatment.

Liquid biopsies were performed when their cancer progressed and ctDNA was analyzed for genetic mutations to determine what might cause the treatment resistance.

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"Identifying what specific mutations are responsible for treatment resistance is very important in helping clinicians choosing what treatment path a patient should try next, whether it be another drug or perhaps radiation," Parikh said.

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Approximately 31 patients were found to have at least one genetic mutation, while 14 participants had more than one mutation.

The liquid biopsies were able to detect extra mutations that were not found in traditional biopsies.

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