Liquid Biopsies for Monitoring and Managing Breast Cancer

Start Year: 2019
Finish Year: 2021
Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Alexander Dobrovic
Institution: La Trobe University / Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute

Currently, the diagnosis of breast cancer and treatment monitoring often requires invasive tissue biopsies and/or imaging techniques such as CT scans. These tests are not without risk and can be time-intensive and expensive to complete. As such, advances in the development of ‘liquid biopsies’ which are based on the analysis of blood samples, hold great and exciting promise.

It has been known for over 100 years that tumours shed molecules and cells into body fluids. Very recently, techniques have been developed to allow evaluation of the original tumour by testing these molecules and cells, which can include fragments of DNA from the cancer cells. Liquid biopsies can take the form of a simple blood test, to assess the circulating tumour DNA fragments within the patient’s bloodstream.

With this in mind, A/Prof Alexander Dobrovic is developing a new set of biomarkers for the detection of breast cancer DNA in the blood. This NBCF-funded study will validate the new biomarkers and develop a test which could be used to monitor every breast cancer patient. This will be particularly useful for monitoring treatment response, allowing rapid changes in management strategy as required.

Due to the improved ease of use, decreased risks and costs, and better comfort for patients, liquid biopsies have great potential in future breast cancer management.