Mount Sinai study finds liquid biopsies measuring PD-L1 may better predict lung cancer response to immunotherapy than traditional tumor biopsies.

Researchers at Mount Sinai have found that a blood test, known as a liquid biopsy, could be a more accurate way to predict if a lung cancer patient will benefit from immunotherapy than the usual method of a tumor biopsy. Published in the Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research, the study highlights that this liquid biopsy looks for a specific protein called PD-L1, which is important for a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system attack the cancer cells. By measuring PD-L1 in the blood, doctors might be able to tell better who will respond well to immunotherapy.

The PD-L1 biomarker comes from tiny particles called extracellular vesicles that break away from the tumor cells and enter the bloodstream. Researchers believe that tracking the levels of PD-L1 in these blood particles could be a key tool in identifying patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who are likely to have a good reaction to the immunotherapy treatments.

The study, led by Dr. Christian Rolfo, involved collecting blood samples from two groups of lung cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy, as well as a control group getting chemotherapy. They tested the blood for PD-L1 at the start and after nine weeks of treatment. They also used advanced imaging technology to assess the patients’ tumors. This research is a team effort with specialists from different countries, and if further studies support these findings, this less invasive and more frequent testing method could replace or support the current standard of tissue biopsies for guiding immunotherapy in lung cancer and potentially other cancers.

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