Liquid biopsies

A tool that measures circulating tumour cells could soon play an important role in cancer detection

A tool that measures circulating tumour cells could soon play an important role in cancer detection.

The medical profession has waited a long time for a reliable blood test to detect cancer.

Interestingly, many patients assume we already possess such a thing; they are both surprised and dismayed to learn we do not.

While extensive laboratory research has not translated into a practical clinical benefit, that situation might be about to change.

The only liquid biopsy currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for clinical use is CellSearch (from Janssen Diagnostics), a prognostic survival tool that measures intact circulating tumour cells but provides no guidance about clinical treatment decision-making.

Predictive markers, which help guide treatment decisions, are clearly preferable.

Dr Bert Vogelstein, professor of oncology and pathology at

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