Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Unspoken Limits of Liquid Biopsies

By Ainsley Newson

Liquid biopsies promise early detection of cancer, but some of their current limitations risk being overlooked.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Credit: Connect World/Adobe

Many of the difficulties in efforts to reduce cancer incidence and deaths arise because we don’t yet have reliable ways to effectively identify, pinpoint and treat it in its early stages. But what if there was a blood test that could pick up a range of early cancers, show where tumours might be and suggest the best treatment? Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

The exciting thing is that researchers are making some headway in identifying cancer-specific DNA sequences and proteins from blood samples: a so-called “liquid biopsy”.

The technology is based on the knowledge that cancer tumours shed mutated DNA. If an over-abundance of certain DNA sequences is detected in our blood, this suggests there could be a tumour. The hope is that one day there will be a single blood test that could be used to routinely screen anyone in the population.

One study published in Science in January showed promising results,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.