(Image: Shutterstock)A simple blood test could have the potential to replace an invasive biopsy in breast cancer patients, according to positive results from a University of Southern California study presented Monday at The American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2016. 

The so called “liquid biopsy”, Parsoritx, developed by specialist medical diagnostic company Angle plc, was put through a head to head comparison of the results of the invasive metastatic biopsy by researchers at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For the study researchers analyzed CTCs (circulating tumor cells) collected from a simple blood test, as well as tissue from an invasive biopsy of a secondary cancer site, and found the blood test demonstrated a statistically significant correlation between the expression signature of 192 genes, with similar analysis of the tissue from the invasive procedure.

Both the tissue and the CTCs were subjected to whole-transcriptome analysis using total RNA sequencing. Through this technique scientists can measure thousands of genes simultaneously to pull a fuller picture of cellular function into focus.

Tissue samples were taken from numerous metastatic sites, including skin, fluid around the heart, breast, and bone tissue.  According to the company, for all of the different sites the CTCs showed a similar gene expression compared to the metastatic biopsy, suggesting that the same clinically relevant information can be attained from a blood test as from an invasive biopsy regardless of its location.

Some of the main advantages to using a liquid biopsy to harvest cancer cells for analysis are that it could reduce the time it takes to make treatment decisions, and avoid delays in treatment because of recovery after an invasive procedure.  The company said this technique also enables researchers to receive information on all cancer sites at once, rather than a single site, and allows for continued assessment of tumor biology over time.

“As a breast cancer surgeon, I am very enthusiastic about the potential of liquid biopsy to gain information to guide the treatment of breast cancer patients based on the specific tumor biology for each patient,” Julie E. Lang, M.D., director of USC Breast Cancer Program and associate Professor of Surgery at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center said in prepared statement. “Our pilot data shows that potentially the same information can be obtained from a simple blood test using Parsortix as from an invasive tissue biopsy and indeed may be advantageous over invasive tissue biopsies in regards to the diverse sites of metastatic disease, thus providing a compelling rationale for use in clinical practice after further validation.”

Next, Angle plans to work with USC to run clinical studies to confirm the pilot data of using the Parsortix system as a clinical application for biopsy of metastatic breast cancer patients.


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Contributing Editor/Science Writer