Diagnosing cancers is not easy! Doctors rely on the symptoms presented by the patient, biochemical diagnostic tests and results of imaging techniques like ultrasonography (USG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) to diagnose various kinds of solid tumors.
The only problem with this approach is that usually, a solid tumor has become a sizeable lump in the tissue of origin by the time it is visible or has spread to other places in the body, before is it detected by these methods. This means that the cancer is already two steps ahead of the patient-doctor team before we even discover it.
Biopsies are also useful to arrive at a diagnosis of cancer. A biopsy is essentially a sample of the cancerous tissue. Now, one can imagine that a skin cancer biopsy is easy to obtain whereas obtaining a biopsy from the lungs or the brain or bones is considerably more difficult.
There are various biopsy techniques like fine needle aspiration biopsy, core needle biopsy, image-guided biopsy techniques, shave biopsy and bone marrow biopsy, to name a few. All of these are invasive procedures that involve a hospital or a clinic setting, not to mention the added cost of just getting a diagnosis, forget therapy!
What if there was an alternative? What if a simple thing, like a 20 ml blood sample, was enough to diagnose cancer? Now that would be a big relief to patients, would it not!
At Strand Life Sciences, we have standardized a technique that is simple and minimally invasive. This technique uses a 20 ml blood sample to understand:
- Does a patient have cancer?
- What kind of cancer is it?
- What are the genes that have gone wrong in this case of cancer?
How do we do this?
For the past five years, scientists all over the world have known that cancer cells shed bits of themselves into the bloodstream. One of these bits is parts of DNA from cancer cells. Imagine a breadcrumb trail left by someone who wants to be followed and discovered!! These bits of DNA act exactly like breadcrumbs. Scientists can extract this tumor DNA from blood circulation. Incidentally, this kind of DNA is aptly named as circulating tumor DNA or ctDNA, for short. It is possible to extract ctDNA from the blood of a person and then check for the genes that have gone wrong in these DNA fragments. Essentially, this is a biopsy of the tumor obtained from liquid tissue and hence the technique is termed as Liquid Biopsy.
At Strand Life Sciences, we already have highly sophisticated and robotized laboratory procedures to extract DNA from solid tissue biopsies. We have also now standardized and adapted the process of obtaining and analyzing liquid biopsies. Our analytical software is unique and is continuously upgraded in-house.
A powerful combination of all these factors has helped us launch a portfolio of liquid biopsy-based tests for cancers. Our very first foray into this arena is based on two tests for identifying genetic changes in lung cancer patients.
What does a patient have to do to take a Liquid Biopsy Test?
Short answer: Take ten minutes out to donate a blood sample to a Strand sales representative.
Long answer: Nah… that’s it! A blood sample, drawn by a trained technician in the presence of our sales representative, is all a patient needs to provide.
Why should you choose a liquid biopsy test over a known, conventional biopsy?
Here are two good reasons:
- We can provide a genetic analysis of a liquid biopsy sample within 5 working days. Analyses of solid tissue biopsies can take 3-4 weeks, at the very least.
- A liquid biopsy can be drawn once every 4 months or so and can be used to track the status of a patient throughout the course of treatment. This means that we can obtain an accurate snapshot of each cancer patient’s disease as the disease progresses or as it responds to treatment.
Watch this space for more news about our specific liquid biopsy tests for cancer diagnosis, as and when we launch them!
In the meantime, do talk to our genetic counsellors to understand your own, personal risk for developing cancer. Just dial our toll-free number 1800-1022-695 to make an appointment.
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