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From Just Some Blood

Liquid biopsies are changing cancer care and keeping doctors more informed about what is going on inside their patients' tumors, Time magazine writes.

Time notes that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved liquid biopsy tests from Guardant Health and Foundation Medicine that test for the presence of hundreds of cancer-linked gene mutations in tumor DNA from within blood samples of cancer patients. It adds that these tests can then help guide patients' treatments, particularly if there is a therapy aimed at their particular cancer driver mutation. Time notes, for instance, that Guardant's test has been approved as a companion diagnostic for AstraZeneca's lung cancer treatment osimertinib.

As liquid biopsies rely on blood samples, they are less invasive than tissue biopsies and can be performed more often to give physicians an idea of how patients' tumors are responding to treatment, Time adds. But it also notes that a negative result on a liquid biopsy test can be trickier to interpret as it does not fully rule out the presence of a mutation, but just that one could not be detected from a blood sample and may need to be confirmed by a tissue biopsy.

Going forward, Time writes that liquid biopsies could even be used as a cancer screening tool to potentially pick up cancer before it is diagnosed.