Kayleigh is a PhD student working on developing liquid biopsies. Here she explains what a liquid biopsy is and how they could move us closer to the early detection of ovarian cancer.
“Every day Doctors have to inform patients that an abnormal mass has been detected that looks ‘suspicious’ and needs ‘further investigation’. These words sound like something someone might say at an airport, ‘a suspicious package has been found that needs investigating’. For many patients it can take days or even weeks to have a biopsy taken and sent to the laboratory for analysis to get a definitive diagnosis.
Rather than sampling the tumour directly, which may be hard to access, researchers are continuing to look into new methods to understand the biology of the tumour, if indeed there is one there at all.
The idea of a ‘liquid biopsy’ has been around for decades – abnormalities arising as a result of the tumour, such as genetic mutations or changes in metabolites such as lipids can be identified from just a blood sample. Now, with increasingly sensitive, high-throughput techniques in this rapidly evolving field this idea may soon become a reality.
But, with tens of millions of cells in every 1ml of blood it can often feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack! Scientists are looking at ways to exploit those properties of the tumour that differentiate it from normal healthy cells much like drawing the needle out of the haystack with a magnet. This idea is not exclusive to blood or even a bodily fluid as research is underway looking at other non-invasive ways to detect cancer including breath and saliva analysis."