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Liquid Biopsy Testing

Project Co-Leads: Drs. Scott Bratman and Geoffrey Liu

Vision: Harnessing information from blood samples to detect lung cancer early.

Main Hypothesis:

 Improvement is limited for the current guidelines that determine which patients should be screened for lung cancer using low dose computed tomography scans (LDCTs). Some mild smokers, smokers who quit a long time ago, and lifetime never-smokers are still at risk of developing lung cancer. New ways of detecting lung cancer must be found beyond the traditional LDCT scan.


A liquid biopsy is a simple and non-invasive alternative to a surgical tumour biopsy that looks for signs of cancer in the blood or other bodily fluids (i.e. urine and saliva). An important benefit of using these fluids is that they can be easily and repeatedly collected and analyzed, causing little discomfort to the patient when compared to traditional tissue biopsy. Traditional biopsies are not conducible for screening programs without any additional indications for the presence of cancer, as they are invasive and risky. 


The liquid biopsy approach is already being used to help diagnose some types of cancers, but research has now progressed to the point where liquid biopsy could be applied to early detection and implemented into screening programs. Liquid biopsies hold a lot of promise for lung cancer, which tends to be diagnosed at later stages. The liquid biopsy procedure is described below.


What will the impact be five years from now?

 Current LDCT screening has high false positive rates and follow-up biopsies are expensive (estimated Medicare costs of $5,000USD/extra biopsy in the United States). Liquid biopsies cost a fraction of traditional tissue biopsies and this price might decrease in the future, as we plan to reduce the amount of sequencing necessary for each patient.

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