The Advantages and Limitations of Liquid Biopsies

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Liquid Biopsy Assays. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

Learn more about Liquid Biopsy Assays (online CE course)
The Advantages and Limitations of Liquid Biopsies

Advantages of liquid biopsy assays:
  • Liquid biopsy is considerably less invasive when compared to the tissue biopsy procedure.
  • Test results are typically available much earlier than a standard tissue biopsy. Using liquid biopsy, it is possible to make an early diagnosis.
  • Liquid biopsy can be used to estimate the risk for metastatic relapse or metastatic progression.
  • Liquid biopsy may allow for the stratification and real-time monitoring of therapies. It may be able to better identify therapeutic targets.
  • The ease and frequency of the liquid biopsy test offers an advantage over the tissue biopsy. The test can be easily repeated if needed and can be used as often as necessary to monitor the patient’s progress.
  • Liquid biopsy is usually much less costly to perform than tissue biopsy.
Limitations of liquid biopsy assays:
  • Liquid biopsy is not yet considered a standard testing procedure: Although there is increasing use of these assays, the tissue biopsy remains the gold standard for the confirmation and diagnosis of diseases, including various cancers and for the determination of the characteristics of a disease. At present, liquid biopsy is not used as a replacement for the tissue biopsy test but used primarily as a complimentary test to tissue biopsy.
  • More support for clinical utility is needed for the test. There is currently not a widespread utilization of the liquid biopsy test within the medical community. More validation in clinical trials is required on the value of liquid biopsies in the medical setting to support the clinical utility of the test.
  • More studies are needed to assess the test’s accuracy and its ability to identify various tumor types. It is not clear if the liquid biopsy provides a representative sampling of all genetic clones within a tumor or if there is a bias to specific sub-regions of the tumor.
  • Test sensitivity challenges still exist. Given that circulating tumor cells or DNA are relatively rare compared to the number of hematological molecules found in a blood sample, there are challenges to the test’s detection ability (eg, the sensitivity of the liquid biopsy test).