A powerful less-invasive tool for diagnosis and precision therapyJune 29, 2018
The potential of liquid biopsy becoming a routine in health checkups like mammograms for risk prediction, prevention, early detection and changes in the disease monitoring are immense
Dr Rajanikanth Vangala & Dr Anjali Gupta
Every cell and tissue type in our body undergoes a natural process of shedding pieces of DNA into our blood, possibly due to cellular mechanisms called apoptosis or necrosis or secretion. In case of cancer cells, these processes lead to the presence of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in the blood. By detecting and identifying these DNA molecules, scientists are now able to perform liquid biopsy for cancer screening, detection and therapy monitoring. An important aspect of the evolution of this technology is the method of discriminating between DNA from normal cells and that from cancer cell DNA. This technology has given a big boost to clinicians, as many cancer types which go undiagnosed in early stages can now be identified and potentially treated, resulting in better outcomes.
Multi-stage application from detection to therapy monitoring: Being simple and less-invasive, liquid biopsy helps patients and clinicians in making important decisions quickly, without compromising patients’ health. As this technology is applicable to the entire journey of the patient from detection, therapy monitoring, resistance to drugs, and metastasis; it can also enable the development of targeted precision therapies. Even though present-day applications of the technology are in disease monitoring, it has immense potential for becoming a part of routine health checkups — like mammograms — for risk prediction, prevention, early detection and disease monitoring.
Change the perspectives: Several studies have established that the accuracy of detecting ctDNA is comparable to that of the gold standard of tumor tissue biopsies, thus opening the possibility of a paradigm shift in how clinicians can improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. Furthermore, this powerful technology can revolutionize the expansion of precision therapies in different cancers due to its real-time detection of targetable DNA mutations. The use of Next Generation Sequencing and the advent of novel platforms in liquid diagnostics can emerge as a game changer in transforming cancer from an incurable condition to a potentially curable one.
Dr Rajanikanth Vangala is Full Time Director at SciGenome Research Foundation, Bengaluru. His primary research focus has been discovery of biomarkers for risk prediction and diagnostics, and translating them into clinically useful tools using nanotechnology.
Dr Anjali Gupta is Research Scientist at SciGenom Research Foundation, Bengaluru