The liquid biopsy, a technique that allows by means of a blood test “spying” on the tumor and fighting it, reveals itself to be the perfect tool to diagnose cancer in its early stages and if it can’t be cured, at least turn it into a chronic disease.
This is explained to Efe, in the framework of the congress that the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) held in Paris, the director of the ONCOMED research group of the Hospital Clínico Universitario de Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Rafael López, which provides that this early detection technique to be widely implemented within a decade.
Lopez argues that liquid biopsy should be understood as. precision oncology, since it is the only tool that today makes it possible to view “the intimate characteristics of the tumor”. “There is no other option because the classical biopsy, which is usually expensive, crude and uncomfortable, only studies a very small piece of the tumor and not the tumor as a whole,” he says.
This oncologist, who chairs the Excellence and Quality in Oncology Foundation (ECO), believes that current means. (“the most reliable are CT and PET-CT scans”). are very rudimentary and look at cancer in a trillion cells, “which is an immense amount.” “If we want to go deeper and be more effective, we have to lower that threshold,” he says.
Lung cancer, the most benefited.
Lopez stresses that liquid biopsy was first used with patients with advanced tumors but also in patients with minimal residual disease, i.e. with localized tumor.
Lopez explains that there are tumors that secrete more DNA into the blood than others and, at this time, the one that would benefit most from this tool would be lung cancer.
He recalls that the liquid biopsies began to be performed with the colon and breast cancer, but insists that the practice is extensible. “to all tumors and all liquids”.
He admits that the most “comfortable” one is blood but it can be performed with the cerebrospinal fluid in the case of metastases with brain involvement, in pleural fluid, urine or saliva. “It can be with any fluid in the body,” he says.
For this oncologist, liquid biopsy is a tool of “revolution” aimed at giving the patient a appropriate treatment and in a personalized way, and for that a “precise diagnosis” is needed.
Liquid biopsy, out of the service portfolio.
And despite its demonstrated effectiveness, this tool is not yet included in the Spanish service portfolio. of the National Health System, something that happens, in his opinion, because innovations “are difficult to incorporate”.
This expert is convinced that its widespread application will be of benefit in advanced disease, which will have less impact and will make targeted treatments possible, but especially in the minimal residual disease for its early diagnosis and the information it provides about the tumor as a whole.
According to this oncologist, narrowing down the tumor and knowing what is going on will avoid giving unnecessary treatments to many patients, a situation that now occurs in 70% of cancer patients.
What is clear to Lopez, is that liquid biopsy will be the “early diagnostic screening method of the future”.
This expert is optimistic about the ultimate goal of curing cancer, something that, in his view, will be achieved when it can be diagnosed at very early stages. and the previous step will be to make the disease chronic.
Remember that drugs become resistant. Currently, that resistance is changed following CT indications, “but with a liquid biopsy it is easier to anticipate the change and the result is more effective.”
With this positive scenario, Lopez calls for support for research, investment to defray the cost, and the conviction of physicians and the healthcare system that it is good to have these logistics available.