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Liquid biopsies enter clinical practice

Press release (08/02/2021) 

Liquid biopsies enter clinical practice
A major challenge for European cancer centres

Brussels, 8 February 2021 - Liquid biopsies, just a few years ago still used solely in cancer research projects, are today entering the clinic. A new tool for diagnosis and monitoring that is bringing many benefits, for doctors as well as cancer patients. Doctor Michail Ignatiadis, medical oncologist at the Jules Bordet Institute and expert in the field of liquid biopsies, is the author, with George W. Sledge Jr and Stefanie S. Jeffrey, of an article published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology. The authors report very specifically on how liquid biopsies are now entering clinical practice and highlight the essential challenge this represents for leading edge medicine in the fight against cancer.

A quick reminder: What are liquid biopsies and what do they permit?
A liquid biopsy is the analysis of a blood sample for the purposes of detecting the presence of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) or circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in a patient's blood and then analysing them at the molecular level, in particular to search for any mutations. CTCs are cancer cells that have detached themselves from the primary tumour (cancerous process at the site (tissue) where the cancer originated) or metastatic lesions (distant from the primary tumour) that are circulating in the blood and that are at the origin of metastases in various body organs.

The potential applications of liquid biopsies are major. It is now possible, by means of a simple blood test, to detect genetic anomalies linked to certain cancers, to monitor the development of the disease, to easily evaluate treatment effectiveness and to guide the choice of a new treatment. The benefits for patients are many: a non-invasive treatment presenting less of a risk compared to solid biopsies (taken directly from the tumour), simple to implement, and an effective method of analysis in the case of lesions or tumours to which access is difficult via a conventional biopsy.

Potential applications and practical questions, Dr Ignatiadis's article explains
The article in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology presents the latest scientific data on liquid biopsies and their potential applications in the fight against cancer. It also looks at many practical questions, such as the human resources required, the integration of liquid biopsies in the patient's care pathway, the method of working with the analysis laboratories, the equipment needed, management of the data obtained, training (of care staff, researchers, data analysts) and many other points.

"Already well integrated in the USA, Europe today has some catching up to do in integrating liquid biopsies into clinical practice. This requires a clear overall view of the elements that must be put into place for this to be done intelligently and coherently. Liquid biopsies are a new tool for personalised care that will benefit both doctors and patients. They represent an important step forward in combatting cancer," explains Dr Ignatiadis.

You will find the article titled "Liquid biopsy enters the clinic — implementation issues and future challenges" by clicking on this link:

The research by Dr Ignatiadis is to a large extent financed by the Friends of the Bordet Institute, the Jules Bordet Institute's biggest private sector donor, as well as by the Fondation contre le cancer.