Liquid Biopsies at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

September 8, 2019

Overcoming Obstacles in Bringing Liquid Biopsies to the Clinic for Cancer Care

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research together with Genentech convened a meeting of worldwide experts at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to tackle some of the scientific and technical challenges in the development and use of liquid biopsies for screening, diagnosis, surveillance, and determination of treatment response in cancer.

Organized by Luis Diaz, MD from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Victor Velculescu, MD, PhD from Johns Hopkins University, this workshop brought together two dozen liquid biopsy scientists from 17 different institutions across seven countries. The world-renowned Banbury Center, set on a bucolic 55-acre Long Island estate, served as an ideal venue for this small group of invited experts to present their most innovative ideas and share best practices as well as to brainstorm and debate outstanding issues in the field.

Meeting attendees shared insights on potential clinical applications of liquid biopsies including screening, diagnosis, molecular profiling, monitoring of treatment response, and residual disease detection. Several attendees presented advances in technologies for analyte isolation, sequencing, and data analysis. The participants also openly discussed important logistical challenges inherent to bringing liquid biopsy platforms to the clinic, including clinical trial design, sample procurement and handling, data sharing protocols, and reimbursement issues.

After the workshop, The Mark Foundation funded two ASPIRE awards as part of a special call for proposals on liquid biopsies, in alignment with the foundation’s commitment to bring together complementary capabilities and support bold interdisciplinary initiatives that take on the toughest challenges in cancer research.

The potential of liquid biopsies in cancer

Liquid biopsy, which involves analysis of cells, DNA, or other biomolecules from samples of blood or other bodily fluids, is poised to have a major impact on cancer care. Liquid biopsy, a relatively non-invasive test that promises to detect the presence of cancer before development of symptoms or appearance on imaging, could provide information about a tumor to inform treatment decisions. Implementation of this technology in the clinic may someday lead to improved outcomes by addressing many challenges currently faced by cancer patients and their healthcare providers. A number of scientific and technical obstacles must first be overcome, however, before liquid biopsies can become commonplace in the clinic.

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