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Liquid Biopsy Results Extend the Use of Tissue Samples in Lung Cancer

Alain Borczuk, MD
Published Online:5:16 PM, Fri July 19, 2019

Alain Borczuk, MD, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, discusses the current role for liquid biopsies versus tissue biopsies in lung cancer and the challenges that need to be overcome in this space.

Overall, liquid biopsy assays can provide physicians with the ability to detect potential alterations that can impact treatment decisions without the need for tissue samples, which are limited by quantity.

Liquid biopsies can be effective in detecting more biomarkers in lung cancer. Currently, certain alterations can only be found in testing of tissue samples, whereas liquid biopsies can only detect certain mutations. By using these blood-based assays for specific alteration testing, physicians can extend the use of tissue samples for additional testing opportunities, according to Borczuk.

If certain alterations are found in liquid biopsies, pathologists can then focus their efforts on the alterations that can only be detected in tissue samples, he explains. However, the challenge in this space is that pathologists are often not informed of the liquid biopsy tests and results. Labs and clinicians run these tests, so the pathologist cannot coordinate these results with the tissue biopsies.

Borczuk concludes that this is something that needs to change. Pathologists need to work with oncologists and surgeons to coordinate how to best incorporate liquid biopsy results into their practice.
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