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Role of Liquid Biopsies Continues to Evolve in GI Cancers

Brandon Scalea
Published: Friday, Dec 28, 2018

Ryan B. Corcoran, MD, PhD

Ryan B. Corcoran, MD, PhD

Liquid biopsies can potentially offer a more precise snapshot of a patient’s tumor, but there are some limitations that have to be addressed before this strategy becomes more widespread in the gastrointestinal (GI) cancer paradigm, said Ryan B. Corcoran, MD, PhD.

“Down the road, we hope that liquid biopsies can be used as an early-detection method. If we can identify patients with early-stage disease in a readily available manner, they will have a higher chance of being cured,” said Corcoran, who is a clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

In an interview with OncLive, Corcoran discussed the clinical utility and benefits of liquid biopsies in GI cancer.

OncLive: What is the role of liquid biopsies in GI cancer?

Corcoran: There are several emerging uses for liquid biopsies in GI cancers. Primarily, in clinical use, a liquid biopsy is used as a genotyping platform. This can be done both to assess for actionable mutations and alterations when a tissue biopsy is either insufficient or too dangerous to perform. There is a growing role for doing additional genotyping in parallel to a liquid biopsy, and after progression on first- and second-line therapy, this can be used to sequence additional therapies.

What are the pros and cons of using liquid biopsies in this setting?

One of the biggest positives of using a liquid biopsy is to perform genotype testing on the tumor in a minimally invasive manner. This allows us to observe how the tumor genome is evolving throughout treatment. One of the other advantages is that a liquid biopsy can perhaps better capture the tumor heterogeneity, and what I mean by that is, different tumor cells residing in different lesions or parts of the same lesion. These [cells] can develop different molecular mechanisms that can be clinically relevant. While a tissue biopsy can give you a limited catalogue of that, a liquid biopsy does this more expansively.
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