Lung cancer is by far the deadliest cancer — and genetics can play a big role in how the disease is treated. Now, a simple blood test — called a liquid biopsy — may be able to replace traditional biopsies as a way to identify important mutations in non-small cell lung cancers.
Unfortunately, biopsies are thought of as a necessary inconvenience for people with cancer. A biopsy involves taking a tissue sample and sending it for genetic and molecular analysis — and it can be really invasive. Sometimes, biopsies can be painful as well — depending on where the tissue is taken from. The idea with the liquid biopsy is to make the process easier, and to get the necessary information without putting people — who are already dealing with cancer — through unnecessary pain.Read More
To determine how effective the liquid biopsies were, researchers tested 282 people at 28 cancer centers throughout the U.S. The liquid biopsy, called Guardant360, was just as effective at identifying mutations that experts have designated as useful in guiding doctors to the right therapies to use for a specific person’s disease. This will allow doctors to make use of targeted therapies — or therapies that will go after a specific gene or protein in a cancer.
Anything that can make the process of a lung cancer diagnosis easier is good news — especially if it can help doctors make use of precision medicine. “The way we plan stage four lung cancer today is using precision therapy,” Dr. Geoffrey Oxnard, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told SurvivorNet when discussing treatments for late-stage lung cancers. “It’s the idea of moving away from chemotherapy for all into finding the right medicine for the right patient and that involves figuring out the biology of a cancer.”