Dr Lee Schwartzberg Explains the Promise of Liquid Biopsies in Cancer

April 6, 2019

As the technology improves, we’re going to see liquid biopsies used in multiple different cancers, explained Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, executive director, West Cancer Center.

As the technology improves, we’re going to see liquid biopsies used in multiple different cancers, explained Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, executive director, West Cancer Center.

Transcript

Liquid biopsies have shown promise in lung cancer and most recently in breast cancer. Do you think use of these biopsies will become more prevalent in the future?

I think liquid biopsies are going to be very important in the precision oncology world of tomorrow. I just returned from AACR [American Association for Cancer Research], and there were many presentations in 2019 about liquid biopsies. So, the technology is developing very quickly. The idea that tumors shed both cells and circulating tumor DNA, as well as other some subcellular molecules like microRNA and proteins into the blood stream, means that really the blood is a rich source of understanding the dynamics of how tumors grow and shrink. So, as the technology improves, and as the studies are done to show concordance against tissue biopsies, we’re going to see liquid biopsies used in multiple different directions.

Right now, they’re good for when you don’t have a tissue biopsy available or there’s a limited sample or not enough to do next-generation sequencing, for example, we can get those results from a liquid biopsy. I think in metastatic cancer, it’s going to be very useful to monitor patients to see what happens, because tumors unfortunately change over time. They can find resistance mechanisms to get around some of the medicines we use. And of course, there’s a lot of interest in early diagnosis using liquid biopsies, and many companies are working on tests that can be used broadly to screen patients for cancer when they have no symptoms. So, we’re very excited about the entire spectrum of liquid biopsies. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s a lot of clinical trials to show the clinical utility, but the validation—technical validation and the clinical validation—has already been largely done.