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Diagnostics Liquid biopsy, Precision medicine, Oncology

Test, Treat, Repeat

Oncology treatments must be tailored to individual patients – especially in childhood cancers. Blood-based circulating tumor DNA can be used for diagnosis, to track cancer progression, and to predict treatment response – but, for optimal treatment, we need sensitive tests to detect low levels of this DNA. When combined with new biomarkers, these tests can help inform patient prognosis and treatment selection.

Patients are increasingly diagnosed with cancer during the earlier stages of the disease. Blood-based methods to screen for and monitor cancer have been a major contributor to this breakthrough; now, doctors can select and administer treatment before widespread progression occurs. But is this all we can do? No – and the next major breakthrough may be the development of cancer-wide biomarker panels to monitor treatment response and predict outcomes. Such panels could allow doctors to determine an ongoing treatment’s effectiveness, alter dosage as needed, and even stop using therapies that are not working, avoiding unnecessary side effects.

Mutations in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) obtained through liquid biopsies can serve as biomarkers for such panels, enabling physicians to track disease progression and inform treatment strategy.

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About the Authors

Alexandra Pender

Medical oncologist specializing in lung cancer and melanoma. Alexandra’s research interests include circulating tumor DNA in lung cancer and clinical trials.


Natacha Entz-Werle

Natacha has been a pediatric oncologist since 2003 developing research studies with a focus on pediatric osteosarcomas and gliomas.

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