Are We Ready to Trust Liquid Biopsies? with Milena Cankovic, Henry Ford Hospital

Milena Cankovic, Director of Molecular Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital


Listen (3:41) What is the buzz about?

Listen (3:12) Enabled by new tools

Listen (4:56) When do you anticipate offering the new tests?

Listen (5:57) Less sample degradation

Listen (2:31) Potential for early cancer detection

If you followed the news from the recent show of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), no doubt you heard about the exciting potential of liquid biopsies. These new blood-based tests, made possible by better tools and analysis techniques, offer a non-invasive way of understanding various cancers. Traditionally, with non-hematological cancers, solid tumor biopsies are obtained through surgical recession or an invasive needle.

It’s been known for some years that there are biomarkers in the blood -- circulating tumor cells (CTCs), for example -- which would give us information about a diagnosed -- or undiagnosed — cancer, but it is just recently that scientists and pathologists have tools with high enough resolution and specificity to detect them. With these new tools, the potential to change cancer treatment and detection has those in the field almost giddy in anticipation. Not only would a non-invasive method replace existing tests, but earlier detection and diagnoses would be possible.

“It has been shown that people were able to detect cancer metastases [with liquid biopsies] about six months earlier than with imaging,” says today’s guest, Milena Cankovic, the Director of Molecular Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She’s the co-author of a recent paper offering a snapshot of just where the field is at today, "Do Circulating Tumor Cells, Exosomes, and Circulating Tumor Nucleic Acids Have Clinical Utility?”

Milena says her lab is currently doing studies of liquid biopsies alongside their traditional solid tumor work. She says the lab plans to offer their first blood-based cancer tests later this year. What tests might those be, and what is involved in ensuring they are ready for prime time? Find out in today's show.