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Medical News & Perspectives
September 26, 2017

Going With the Flow: The Promise and Challenge of Liquid Biopsies

JAMA. 2017;318(12):1095-1097. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10203

One of the Cleveland Clinic’s Top Ten Medical Innovations for 2017, the liquid biopsy, can potentially be used to analyze the genetics of tumor cells from blood samples to provide an easier, faster, and comprehensive approach to understanding and treating solid tumors. But what exactly is a liquid biopsy? And can it replace tissue biopsy for detecting solid tumors?

The detection of cancer biomarkers in blood is not a new concept. Circulating protein tumor markers such as carcinoembryonic antigen or prostate-specific antigen have been used for decades to assess solid tumor burden. However, many malignancies do not have a reliable protein biomarker, and even for those tumors that do, levels of the protein may be elevated for reasons not related to tumor growth or progression.