Liquid Biopsies: Applications for Cancer Diagnosis and Monitoring

Genes (Basel). 2021 Feb 27;12(3):349. doi: 10.3390/genes12030349.


The minimally-or non-invasive detection of circulating tumor-derived components in biofluids, such as blood, liquid biopsy is a revolutionary approach with significant potential for the management of cancer. Genomic and transcriptomic alterations can be accurately detected through liquid biopsies, which provide a more comprehensive characterization of the heterogeneous tumor profile than tissue biopsies alone. Liquid biopsies could assist diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment selection, and hold great potential to complement current surveilling strategies to monitor disease evolution and treatment response in real-time. In particular, these are able to detect minimal residual disease, to predict progression, and to identify mechanisms of resistance, allowing to re-orient treatment strategies in a timelier manner. In this review we gathered current knowledge regarding the role and potential of liquid biopsies for the diagnosis and follow-up of cancer patients. The presented findings emphasize the strengths of liquid biopsies, revealing their chance of improving the diagnosis and monitoring of several tumor types in the near future. However, despite growing evidence supporting their value as a management tool in oncology, some limitations still need to be overcome for their implementation in the routine clinical setting.

Keywords: cancer; cell-free DNA; circulating tumor cells; diagnosis; liquid biopsies; monitoring; precision medicine; prognosis.

Publication types

  • Review