Liquid biopsy for cancer management: a revolutionary but still limited new tool for precision medicine

Adv Lab Med. 2020 Apr 27;1(3):20200009. doi: 10.1515/almed-2020-0009. eCollection 2020 Oct.
[Article in English, Spanish]

Abstract

The term liquid biopsy is used in contraposition to the traditional "solid" tissue biopsy. In the oncology field it has opened a new plethora of clinical opportunities as tumor-derived material is shedded into the different biofluids from where it can be isolated and analyzed. Common biofluids include blood, urine, saliva, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), pleural effusion or bile. Starting from these biological specimens several analytes can be isolated, among which we will review the most widely used: circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), circulating tumor RNA (ctRNA), proteins, metabolites, and exosomes. Regarding the nature of the biomarkers it will depend on the analyte, the type of tumor and the clinical application of the liquid biopsy and it includes, somatic point mutations, deletions, amplifications, gene-fusions, DNA-methylated marks, tumor-specific miRNAs, proteins or metabolites. Here we review the characteristics of the analytes and the methodologies used for their isolation. We also describe the applications of the liquid biopsy in the management of patients with cancer, from the early detection of cancers to treatment guidance in patients with advanced tumors. Finally, we also discuss some current limitations and still open questions.

Keywords: circulating biomarkers; circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA); circulating tumor cells (CTCs); personalized medicine; tumor circulome.

Publication types

  • Review