Liquid biopsy a non-invasive way to diagnose cancer

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Researchers have a non-invasive diagnostic tool called a liquid biopsy that replaces cutting. (WLS)

Cancer patients routinely endure surgical biopsies to diagnose and detect progression of the disease. Now, researchers have a non-invasive diagnostic tool called a liquid biopsy that replaces cutting. The non-invasive procedure finds the cancer wherever it is hiding in the body.

Kim Belcastro was an active wife and mother of two until doctors discovered cancer, lurking first in her lungs and then in her brain and spine.

"By the time it was diagnosed, it was in four different parts of my body," said Belcastro.

Kim had three surgical biopsies which were debilitating. But at Penn Medicine, her doctors used a liquid biopsy from a simple blood test that looks for the genetic mutations causing tumors to spread. It searches for DNA circulating in the blood that identify as cancer.
With that knowledge, doctors are better able to modify chemotherapy.

"Just fathom that in her case we were able to find the one or two very, very small pieces-microscopic pieces of DNA that contain this mutation ... among billions and billions of DNA that were in her blood," said Dr. Erica Carpenter.

"With this technology, we were able to find this other relevant mutation, for which now she's on another oral therapy and she's experiencing extremely good clinical benefit," said Dr. Charu Aggarwal.

Thanks to this early warning system, Kim still enjoys life with her family.

In many cases, these biopsies identify the same mutations in the blood that are present in the tumor. The FDA approved the first liquid biopsy over a decade ago as a test for cancer. And a year ago a circulating tumor DNA test was approved that spots the mutations.

If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at

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