Recent advances in the science of DNA mapping have made it possible to identify the specific characteristics of a cancer tumor through a simple blood or urine test. These “liquid biopsies” are being heralded as a game changer in cancer management and cancer detection by tracking DNA fragments of tumors as they circulate through the blood.
At our Los Angeles facility, our oncologists utilize this cutting-edge technology as part of our personalized medicine approach which uses the science of DNA to plan and monitor cancer treatment. Using the patient’s unique genetic blueprint cancer cells can be targeted with laser precision.
Detecting tumor response to treatment
Unlike tissue biopsy, obtaining cellular samples through a simple blood test is fast, painless and can be repeated multiple times during treatment. This allows doctors to regularly monitor the effectiveness of a particular drug or treatment adjusting the medication or the dose as indicated. This is particularly useful in cases where the tumor is unreachable or when the patient cannot withstand the stress of a surgical biopsy.
Patients are provided with options that would not have been available if progress was being monitored by tissue biopsy. The ability to draw blood frequently and to use tumor markers to gauge whether a treatment is working is invaluable in making treatment decisions.
Liquid biopsies and cancer detection
Detecting cancer in its earliest stages when it can still be cured is the goal of cancer research scientists worldwide. Using the science of DNA sequencing, cancer cells can now be identified by DNA fragments of tumors that circulate through the blood. This occurs long before any other symptoms are observed which allows treatment to be less invasive and aggressive than in cases where cancer is more advanced.
While this science is in the beginning phase, liquid biopsies are being used to screen high risk patients for gene mutations that could indicate cancer. These patients can then be closely monitored on a regular basis at our Los Angeles clinic.
Patients who are being monitored while in remission can have a simple blood test on a regular basis to screen for any increase in tumor DNA. Should the cancer reappear, a liquid biopsy can provide information on changes in the tumor since the original treatment was concluded allowing doctors to pick a drug based on how the tumor has changed.
Candidates for liquid biopsy screening
At Beverly Hills Cancer Center we use liquid biopsy screening for patients with advanced cancer who are not responding to treatment, for patients who cannot tolerate a surgical biopsy and for those who do not have enough tissue available to test.
We also use DNA sequencing screening to determine the site of the primary cancer, if unknown. As part of our personalized medicine program, liquid biopsy screening is used on many types of cancer including ovarian, breast, lung, melanoma and colon cancer.
Are tissue biopsies obsolete?
Tissue biopsies and liquid biopsies are complementary as both types of biopsy reveal factors that assist diagnosis and treatment decisions. Liquid biopsies can be done very frequently throughout treatment to monitor changes to tumors in relation to specific treatment. Tissue biopsies provide historical pathology of tumors which give our doctors comprehensive data which is unique to the patients.
Beverly Hills Cancer Center strives to stay abreast of the latest advances in the detection, treatment and monitoring of cancer patients. Liquid biopsies have provided our doctors with a powerful tool which in combination with personalized medicine techniques can greatly increase the effectiveness of treatments.
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