Liquid Biopsies May Help Identify Lung Cancer

Liquid Biopsies May Help Identify Lung Cancer

You may be used to hearing about tissue biopsies, in which doctors snip samples of tissue to see if it’s cancerous. For some cancers, liquid biopsies may offer a less invasive approach. In a liquid biopsy, specialists test your blood, plasma, or urine for DNA sequences unique to specific cancers. Scientists from the University of Illinois College of Medicine are testing the use of liquid biopsies to detect lung cancer, the third most common cancer in the country. 

In a Clinical Cancer Research study published in May 2020, lead author Alicia Hulbert, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Illinois Cancer Center’s Translational Oncology Program, showed that liquid biopsies can serve as a complement to CT screening to identify lung cancer. 

Some tumors shed cells that show up in body fluids. Hulbert focused on sampling urine. “It is non-invasive, accessible, less costly, and repeatable compared with solid mass pathology,” she says.

Used with CT screening, liquid biopsies can help oncologists determine whether to move forward with more invasive procedures. Liquid biopsies are increasingly popular: The market is expected to reach $2 billion to $3 billion by 2026.

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2021 print issue.