What is a Liquid Biopsy for Lung Cancer?

A new and exciting way to identify biomarkers, liquid biopsies are a type of blood tests. In the past, some lung cancer patients could not take advantage of the latest discoveries in personalized medicine because there was not enough tissue to do biomarker testing. With FDA approval of the first liquid biopsy in 2016 and advances in research, specific genetic drivers, or suspected drivers, can be detected in more than half of lung cancers.

In this Hope With Answers℠ Video Series: Liquid Biopsy, Dr. Greg Riely of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center discusses the basics of liquid biopsy for lung cancer with patient and advocate Lisa Goldman. Next, hear from Patient and advocate Lysa Buonanno as she discusses the most in-depth information surrounding liquid biopsy for lung cancer with Dr. Greg Riely of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

When is a liquid biopsy used?

liquid biopsies in therapeutic management

send blood for genotyping to assess for resistance

Current method is tumor mutational burden (TMB) testing, which is done by large‑panel next-generation sequencing (NGS) testing, usually of tumor tissue. Liquid biopsy may not be a suitable choice for biomarker testing, for instance:


  • Sometimes a patient already has tissue available for testing
  • Patient already scheduled for a procedure in the very near future that will procure tissue
  • There are rapid assays that can give you an answer very quickly for the critical FDA-approved indications, where the large‑panel NGS testing takes longer


Liquid Biopsy Use in Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

The use of liquid biopsies is becoming more common in the field of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as the utility of liquid biopsies in the detection of key biomarkers continues to be confirmed through clinical trials. Popularity of blood-based assays is also growing as comparisons between liquid and tissue biopsies continue to demonstrate the non-inferiority of liquid biopsies with quicker testing turnaround times.


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