Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounting for the majority of cases. Recent advances in the understanding of the biology of tumors and in highly sensitive detection technologies for molecular analysis offer targeted therapies, such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors. However, our understanding of an individual patient’s lung cancer is often limited by tumor accessibility because of the high risk and invasive nature of current tissue biopsy procedures. “Liquid biopsy”, the analysis of circulating biomarkers from peripheral blood, such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), offers a new source of cancer-derived materials that may reflect the status of the disease better and thereby contribute to more personalized treatment. In this review, we examined the clinical significance and uniqueness of CTCs and ctDNA from NSCLC patients, isolation and detection methods developed to analyze each type of circulating biomarker, and examples of clinical studies of potential applications for early diagnosis, prognosis, treatment monitoring, and prediction of resistance to therapy. We also discuss challenges that remain to be addressed before such tools are implemented for routine use in clinical settings.
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