With the development of new sensitive molecular techniques, circulating cell-free tumour DNA containing mutations can be identified in the plasma of cancer patients. The applications of this technology may result in significant changes to the care and management of cancer patients. Whilst, currently, these "liquid biopsies" are used to supplement the histological diagnosis of cancer and metastatic disease, in the future these assays may replace the need for invasive procedures. Applications include the monitoring of tumour burden, the monitoring of minimal residual disease, monitoring of tumour heterogeneity, monitoring of molecular resistance and early diagnosis of tumours and metastatic disease.
Keywords: cell-free DNA; cell-free tumour DNA; colorectal carcinoma; liquid biopsy; melanoma; minimal residual disease; non-small cell lung cancer.