(TIME) — A simple blood test is as effective as a biopsy in detecting lung cancer mutations.
A liquid biopsy blood test by Guardant Health may one day remove the need for invasive biopsies for advanced cancer patients. Here's why.
But tissue biopsies are invasive, and depending on where the tumors are in the body, they can be painful to obtain. For some people, there may not even be enough cancer tissue for doctors to get the answers they need.
In a press briefing previewing the upcoming American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Atlanta, researchers reported that a commercial blood test, called a liquid biopsy, was at least as effective as a tissue sample at identifying important mutations in non-small cell lung cancers.
In a study funded by the manufacturer of the test, Guardant Health, 282 people at 28 centers in the U.S. with late-stage non-small cell lung cancer were tested both with Guardant’s liquid biopsy, called Guardant360, and their doctor’s choice of a tissue-based test to look for seven genetic markers in the tumors. Cancer experts have designated mutations in these markers as useful in guiding doctors to the appropriate therapies for attacking the cancer; a number of so-called targeted therapies designed to find and dismantle these mutations have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recent years. Guardant 360 also looks for one genetic marker that can help to predict prognosis of these lung cancers.