September 7, 2017 – Liquid Biopsy and Screening


Anchor lead: Use of a blood test to screen for an uncommon cancer works well, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Screening for a very common virus known as Epstein-Barr has been successful in identifying men with nasopharyngeal cancer, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported. The test is just one example of the practicality of so-called liquid biopsy, where cancer markers are found in the blood and can be used for both screening and treatment monitoring. That’s according to William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

Nelson: This is true for most cancers. They end up having footprints if you will in the bloodstream and this is the basis for the notion of liquid biopsies and screening for cancer so yes, this is an example of the same type of thing. In other cancers of course you’re looking for acquired gene defects as the signature of the cancers, in this case Epstein Barr virus is the signature of this particular cancer.  :23

Nelson says the hope is that most cancers will one day be discoverable using such a technique. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.