In a recent release from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), it was reported that researchers have discovered that by analyzing circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) through liquid biopsy that a patient’s cancer can be tracked as it evolves and responds to treatment.

The results of the study were published in Nature Communications. Dr. Muhammed Murtaza of TGen and the Mayo Clinic and his colleagues outline a comparison between biopsy results and an analysis of a ctDNA in a patient with breast cancer, following the patient over a three year course of treatment.

Liquid biopsy detects mutations from multiple sites

The findings indicate that ctDNA analysis from blood samples allow detection of cancer mutations from multiple different tumor sites within a patient, and can track how each of them responds.

This type of test, known as liquid biopsy, is a less invasive and less costly alternative than traditional tissue biopsies. This could result in more frequent utilization of this analysis, leading to  more accurate information and the selection of the best possible treatment for the patient.

Relevance to GIST

This technology is being looked at for GIST, and seems to be a natural progression, as in GIST research we have identified molecular types that are actionable.

Dr. George Demetri, leading GIST specialist, has supported this type of genetic assessment, indicating its potential to address the heterogeneity recurrent clones at relapse in GIST as a way of sampling the complete spectrum of a patient’s tumor rather than biopsing specific parts of the tumor, but has called for further research to assess the efficacy and utility of liquid biopsies.

It will be important to track the current research. This study also heralds the possibility that in the future we will be able to track not only the specific mutations in various areas of a tumor, but also to develop targeted treatments at various stages in a patient’s disease.