Breast, lung and colorectal cancer are some of the most prevalent of all cancers. Breast cancer is the single most widespread cancer in women, and the second overall in the world. One in 15 men and one in 17 women will eventually develop lung cancer, including both smokers and people exposed to subterranean radon gas. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for men and women combined. Worldwide, millions of people will contract each of these diseases every year, and the fraction of overall mortality they represent will continue to climb as advances in healthcare and social development allow more and more people to live to older ages.
Five-year survival rates for these cancers are dismal when they are detected late, as low as 27% for breast cancer, 14% for colorectal cancer and 6% for lung cancer. These conditions account for a substantial fraction of the public perception of cancer as a death sentence, leading to rapid and unavoidable suffering and death. However, survival rates rise to 60% (lung), 71% (colorectal) and 99% (breast) if the cancer is detected early, before tumors become more entrenched and can spread to other parts of the body, and some people who recover never see their cancer again. Advances in cancer treatment account for some of this increase in long-term survival and recovery, but much of it can be attributed to advances in cancer detection, enabling treatment to begin earlier while the cancer is more vulnerable and a normal life easier to restore.
Liquid biopsies are part of this story. Essentially blood tests for cancer, liquid biopsies assay the blood for circulating tumor cells (CTCs), circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) or exosomes (lipid globules passed between tumor cells as communication), which can then be identified via other methods. As blood tests, liquid biopsies are far less invasive than many other procedures, in particular the exploratory surgery often needed to confirm location and size of tumors. Tumors begin leaving traces in the blood while they are still quite small, which could mean that liquid biopsies may be usable very early in a cancer’s progression. Especially for cancer varieties that tend to share specific mutations in common, blood tests based on one of these methods could in the future grow from research tools to commercially and institutionally viable detection methods, able to save countless lives. Research is ongoing to identify more and more cancer markers that can be used to develop liquid-biopsy-based tests, which may make more and more cancers detectable while they are still small, and potentially driving overall survival rates ever higher.
Thermo Fisher Scientific offers numerous liquid biopsy tools that use a variety of methods. These include the NGS-based Oncomine cell-free nucleic acid assays, which are verified with research samples and enable detection down to 0.1%, and the TaqMan Liquid Biopsy dPCR assays, which are wet-lab verified and can detect and quantify rare mutant prevalence to <0.1%. Thermo Fisher Scientific also offers the MagMax Cell Free DNA and MagMax Cell-Free Total Nucleic Acid Isolation Kits for collecting and extracting circulating DNA in blood to test it for tumor traces. Exosome detection and processing is a bit more involved, but Thermo Fisher Scientific also has resources for this field.
For more information on how Thermo Fisher Scientific can address your questions about liquid biopsy possibilities, visit this page.