This technique can save significant time so you don’t have to wait for a treatment course to be complete before you know if it is working well or not.
You can remain on your current treatment regimen with greater confidence or you can immediately switch to your next treatment option. There is no guessing about how things are going, and no time is wasted, and that is crucial with cancer.
: Liquid biopsies can also be used as a simple, but very precise and accurate, 'check-up' to check for recurrences of cancer.
Once we know what mutated gene(s) to look for, we can track if the cancer has come back months before traditional diagnostics would show that anything is there.
And if a patient’s genetic testing showed that they had multiple mutated genes (a very common occurrence), it is common, over time, and even through the welcome and successful targeting of one mutation, for one of the sub-mutations to take over and start driving the cancer.
Liquid biopsies can detect that change. Then we can immediately alter the course of treatment to target the gene that is now dominant, extending the lives of cancer patients by years over standard approaches to treatments and monitoring.
: Liquid biopsies can be used to determine candidacy for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Because they are a blood-based test, instead of only assessing cancerous mutations at the tumour site (as with a tissue biopsy), a liquid biopsy tests the whole body all at once.
A liquid biopsy can also track pseudo-progression. Pseudo-progression is a common occurrence where a tumour appears to have grown on imaging technology, but in fact, it hasn't.
In reality, these immunotherapy treatments create a kind of inflammation in the tumour and initiate a massive die off of cells, which can make it appear as though the tumour is larger when it’s actually dying and the cancerous tissue is shrinking significantly.
Without a liquid biopsy an oncologist might assume the treatment is not working, and cease the therapy, when in fact, it is being highly effective.
In these cases a liquid biopsy can quickly confirm that the tumour is actually dying and ensure that a patient gets to stay on a treatment that is working well for them.