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09 Feb 2021
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Can blood tests (or liquid biopsies) help detect cancers early?

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre alliance recently hosted a multidisciplinary workshop moderated by Professor Maarten IJzerman, (VCCC and the University of Melbourne) and Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre), bringing together experts from cancer research, clinical oncology, health services research and industry to review the health economic consequences of the use of liquid biopsies and their potential for routine implementation in cancer management.

Liquid biopsies are known as the sampling and analysis of non-solid tissue (Circulating Tumour Cells, td-EV, ctDNA), primarily from blood and saliva, as a diagnostic and monitoring tool for cancer.

Non-invasive and cost-effective

Liquid biopsies are considered non-invasive and less costly compared to conventional biopsies, offering a range of benefits. Liquid biopsies, rather than solid tissue biopsies, enable early diagnostic testing and serial assessment allows more intense treatment monitoring.

As research develops, and liquid biopsies are routinely implemented in cancer management it might mean that patients in regional and rural locations could gain access to precision oncology more readily - removing the emotional and financial stress of travelling to city locations.

Clinical application draws on broad-based expertise

As a collaborative group, workshop participants explored the growing role of precision and personalised medicine for cancer treatment and the integral part that liquid biopsies could play in early detection, treatment selection, monitoring and detecting recurrence.

Clinical, laboratory and health economics expertise was freely shared to illustrate the opportunities and current levels of evidence. Surveys and real-time polls were used to collect participants’ opinions about the current evidence of clinical utility and the barriers to implementation.

The outcomes from this meeting form the basis for targeted clinical trial grant applications in areas where liquid biopsies add the largest value.

The results of the workshop have now been published in the journal Diagnostics: “Towards routine implementation of liquid biopsies in cancer management: It is always too early, until suddenly it is too late."

Read more, in Testing, Testing, Testing: Can Blood Tests Help Detect Cancers Early? featured in this month’s Pursuit, from the University of Melbourne.

For more information on VCCC Value-Based Care Programs, contact Dr Jasper de Boer, Program Manager, e: jasper.deboer@unimelb.edu.au