The Utility of Liquid Biopsies in Radiation Oncology

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2020 Aug 1;107(5):873-886. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.05.008. Epub 2020 May 14.


The use of therapeutic radiation is primarily guided by clinicopathologic factors and medical imaging, whereas molecular biomarkers currently play a comparatively minor role in most settings. Liquid biopsies provide a rich source of noninvasive tumor-specific biomarkers and are amenable to repeated and noninvasive assessment. Here, we review the current status of liquid biopsies and their potential impact on the field of radiation oncology. We focus on established and emerging approaches to analyze circulating tumor DNA and circulating tumor cells from peripheral blood. These promising classes of biomarkers could have an outsized impact on cancer management by meaningfully stratifying patients into risk groups, tracking radiation therapy efficacy during and after treatment, and identifying patients with radiosensitive or radioresistant disease. Finally, we highlight opportunities for future investigation including the need for prospective interventional studies employing liquid biopsies to guide the management of radiation therapy-treated patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Liquid Biopsy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Radiation Oncology*

Grant support