Dr. Raez on the Benefits of Liquid Biopsies in Newly Diagnosed Lung Cancer

Luis E. Raez, MD, discusses the role of liquid biopsies in newly diagnosed patients with lung cancer.

Luis E. Raez, MD, medical director of Memorial Cancer Institute, and chief of Hematology/Oncology at Memorial Healthcare System, discusses the role of liquid biopsies in newly diagnosed patients with lung cancer.

In order to administer the appropriate targeted therapy to patients with lung cancer who may harbor ALK, EGFR, BRAF, or NTRK abnormalities, the molecular aberration must be found first, says Raez.

One way to detect these alterations is by performing a tissue biopsy; however, results from these tests take about 3 weeks to return, and oftentimes, patients have been living with their mass for around 2 months after its initial discovery, adds Raez. Furthermore, sometimes patients with stage IV disease will visit a surgeon first, which further delays the treatment process.

Patients are often given the choice between receiving immediate chemoimmunotherapy or waiting for the results of the biopsy to see whether targeted therapy is an option, according to Raez. To avoid those delays, patients might be more inclined to receive immediate treatment; however, if their tumor is harboring an alteration, that approach would be suboptimal, warns Raez.

Liquid biopsies can provide insight into whether a patient’s tumor is harboring a targetable mutation more quickly than a tissue biopsy. Results from liquid biopsies will return in just 8 to 9 days, which is the same amount of time it would take for an insurance provider to approve chemotherapy, says Raez.

With the appropriate targeted therapy, patients with EGFR mutations can stay on treatment for 2 or 3 years, while those with ALK mutations can potentially remain on treatment for 5 years. Upon progression on these agents, patients can then receive chemoimmunotherapy and reap the benefits of that approach later on in their treatment journey, concludes Raez.

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