December 14, 2018 – Detecting Cancer


Anchor lead: What is the current state of being able to detect cancer with a so-called liquid biopsy? Elizabeth Tracey reports

When a cancer is suspected a biopsy, where a piece of the tumor is retrieved using a needle or another surgical technique, is frequently needed, and may have to be done again if the cancer recurs. Now techniques are able to find tumor DNA in other body fluids, a recent study reviewed. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, explains what’s known.

Nelson: One way to look at it is many people are familiar with the CSI franchises and have become amateur forensic pathologists and they recognize the one hair follicle at the crime scene, you can get DNA and you can figure out that person X was there and person Y was not. One question is if cancers have defects in genes that can be detected with the same technology can we find out if cancers is present or not in the bloodstream, in saliva, in urine, and the answer to that of course is yes, the question is what is the best information we have and how can we best use it?  :32

Nelson predicts the techniques will become more mainstream in the very near future, and will also be used to monitor response to treatment. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.