Special Issue "Liquid Biopsy for Cancer"

A special issue of Cancers (ISSN 2072-6694).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 May 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Charles Lawrie
Website
Guest Editor
Biodonostia Research Institute, Paseo Doctor Begiristain, s/n, San Sebastián, 20014, Spain
Interests: ncRNA, cancer, biomarkers, liquid biopsies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The current gold standard for cancer diagnosis remains the histological examination of invasively obtained biopsy tissue. This technique is sometimes risky, often difficult to perform, expensive, slow, and uncomfortable for the patient. As a consequence, there has been a great deal of interest in non-invasive biomarkers in biological fluids such as blood, urine, and saliva. So-called “liquid biopsies” are more economical, rapid, and easy to perform than current clinical protocols. Most importantly, liquid biopsies represent a paradigm shift in cancer patient management, as the ability to carry out repeat sampling permits for the first time the real-time monitoring of patient treatment response and disease progression, allowing for earlier intervention and dynamic treatment management, and therefore a more personalized approach. Moreover, there is an increasing awareness of the molecular heterogeneity of tumors and a realization that traditional tissue biopsies may miss this diversity. In contrast, liquid biopsies can capture the entire molecular panorama of the tumoral landscape. Furthermore, liquid biopsies are eminently suitable for use in screening programs.

In recognition of the potential of this field, in recent years there has been much interest in the field of circulating nucleic acids. Circulating DNA research which has its origins in the 1940s has recently been focused on the detection of cancer-associated mutations and other chromosomal aberrations. This research is now translating into the clinic, initially with EGFR mutation testing in lung cancer. In contrast, the field of circulating RNA was largely neglected after its initial discovery nearly 20 years ago, as the high levels of RNase present in blood and other biological fluids were believed to render these labile molecules useless. However, the recent discovery of circulating non-coding RNA, specifically circulating miRNAs, that are resistant to RNase activity has provided fresh impetus for this field.

This Special Issue welcomes original research concerning the discovery and/or validation of circulating biomarkers (nucleic acids or other molecules) in cancer, as well as reviews that critically provide an informative overview of the field.

Prof. Charles Lawrie
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • liquid biopsies
  • biomarkers
  • non-coding RNA
  • circulating transcriptome
  • mutanome
  • exosomes
  • microRNAs

Published Papers (38 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
The Urinary Transcriptome as a Source of Biomarkers for Prostate Cancer
Cancers 2020, 12(2), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12020513 - 22 Feb 2020
Abstract
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second most common cancer of men and is typically slow-growing and asymptomatic. The use of blood PSA as a screening method has greatly improved PCa diagnosis, but high levels of false positives has raised much interest in alternative [...] Read more.
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second most common cancer of men and is typically slow-growing and asymptomatic. The use of blood PSA as a screening method has greatly improved PCa diagnosis, but high levels of false positives has raised much interest in alternative biomarkers. We used next-generation sequencing (NGS) to elucidate the urinary transcriptome of whole urine collected from high-stage and low-stage PCa patients as well as from patients with the confounding diagnosis of benign hyperplasia (BPH). We identified and validated five differentially expressed protein-coding genes (FTH1 BRPF1, OSBP, PHC3, and UACA) in an independent validation cohort of small-volume (1 mL) centrifuged urine (n = 94) and non-centrifuged urine (n = 84) by droplet digital (dd)PCR. These biomarkers were able to discriminate between BPH and PCa patients and healthy controls using either centrifuged or non-centrifuged whole urine samples, suggesting that the urinary transcriptome is a valuable source of non-invasive biomarkers for PCa that warrants further investigation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessCommunication
Long-Term Dynamics of Three Dimensional Telomere Profiles in Circulating Tumor Cells in High-Risk Prostate Cancer Patients Undergoing Androgen-Deprivation and Radiation Therapy
Cancers 2019, 11(8), 1165; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11081165 - 14 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Patient-specific assessment, disease monitoring, and the development of an accurate early surrogate of the therapeutic efficacy of locally advanced prostate cancer still remain a clinical challenge. Contrary to prostate biopsies, circulating tumor cell (CTC) collection from blood is a less-invasive method and has [...] Read more.
Patient-specific assessment, disease monitoring, and the development of an accurate early surrogate of the therapeutic efficacy of locally advanced prostate cancer still remain a clinical challenge. Contrary to prostate biopsies, circulating tumor cell (CTC) collection from blood is a less-invasive method and has potential as a real-time liquid biopsy and as a surrogate marker for treatment efficacy. In this study, we used size-based filtration to isolate CTCs from the blood of 100 prostate cancer patients with high-risk localized disease. CTCs from five time points: +0, +2, +6, +12 and +24 months were analyzed. Consenting treatment-naïve patients with cT3, Gleason 8-10, or prostate-specific antigen > 20 ng/mL and non-metastatic prostate cancer were included. For all time points, we performed 3D telomere-specific quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization on a minimum of thirty isolated CTCs. The patients were divided into five groups based on the changes of number of telomeres vs telomere lengths over time and into three clusters based on all telomere parameters found on diagnosis. Group 2 was classified as non-respondent to treatment and the Cluster 3 presented more aggressive phenotype. Additionally, we compared our telomere results with the PSA levels for each patient at 6 months of ADT, at 6 months of completed RT, and at 36 months post-initial therapy. CTCs of patients with PSA levels above or equal to 0.1 ng/mL presented significant increases of nuclear volume, number of telomeres, and telomere aggregates. The 3D telomere analysis of CTCs identified disease heterogeneity among a clinically homogeneous group of patients, which suggests differences in therapeutic responses. Our finding suggests a new opportunity for better treatment monitoring of patients with localized high-risk prostate cancer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Analysis of AR/ARV7 Expression in Isolated Circulating Tumor Cells of Patients with Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer (SAKK 08/14 IMPROVE Trial)
Cancers 2019, 11(8), 1099; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11081099 - 01 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Despite several treatment options and an initial high response rate to androgen deprivation therapy, the majority of prostate cancers will eventually become castration-resistant in the metastatic stage (mCRPC). Androgen receptor splice variant 7 (ARV7) is one of the best-characterized androgen receptor (AR) variants [...] Read more.
Despite several treatment options and an initial high response rate to androgen deprivation therapy, the majority of prostate cancers will eventually become castration-resistant in the metastatic stage (mCRPC). Androgen receptor splice variant 7 (ARV7) is one of the best-characterized androgen receptor (AR) variants whose expression in circulating tumor cells (CTCs) has been associated with enzalutamide resistance. ARV7 expression analysis before and during enzalutamide treatment could identify patients requiring alternative systemic therapies. However, a robust test for the assessment of the ARV7 status in patient samples is still missing. Here, we implemented an RT-qPCR-based assay for detection of AR full length (ARFL)/ARV7 expression in CTCs for clinical use. Additionally, as a proof-of-principle, we validated a cohort of 95 mCRPC patients initiating first line treatment with enzalutamide or enzalutamide/metformin within a clinical trial. A total of 95 mCRPC patients were analyzed at baseline of whom 27.3% (26/95) had ARFL+ARV7+, 23.1% (22/95) had ARFL+ARV7−, 23.1% (22/95) had ARFL−ARV7−, and 1.1% (1/95) had ARFL−ARV7+ CTCs. In 11.6% (11/95), no CTCs could be isolated. A total of 25/95 patients had another CTC analysis at progressive disease, of whom 48% (12/25) were ARV7+. Of those, 50% (6/12) were ARV7− and 50% (6/12) were ARV7+ at baseline. Our results show that mRNA analysis of isolated CTCs in mCRPC is feasible and allows for longitudinal endocrine agent response monitoring and hence could contribute to treatment optimization in mCRPC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Thermal Liquid Biopsy (TLB): A Predictive Score Derived from Serum Thermograms as a Clinical Tool for Screening Lung Cancer Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 1012; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11071012 - 19 Jul 2019
Abstract
Risk population screening programs are instrumental for advancing cancer management and reducing economic costs of therapeutic interventions and the burden of the disease, as well as increasing the survival rate and improving the quality of life for cancer patients. Lung cancer, with high [...] Read more.
Risk population screening programs are instrumental for advancing cancer management and reducing economic costs of therapeutic interventions and the burden of the disease, as well as increasing the survival rate and improving the quality of life for cancer patients. Lung cancer, with high incidence and mortality rates, is not excluded from this situation. The success of screening programs relies on many factors, with some of them being the appropriate definition of the risk population and the implementation of detection techniques with an optimal discrimination power and strong patient adherence. Liquid biopsy based on serum or plasma detection of circulating tumor cells or DNA/RNA is increasingly employed nowadays, but certain limitations constrain its wide application. In this work, we present a new implementation of thermal liquid biopsy (TLB) for lung cancer patients. TLB provides a prediction score based on the ability to detect plasma/serum proteome alterations through calorimetric thermograms that strongly correlates with the presence of lung cancer disease (91% accuracy rate, 90% sensitivity, 92% specificity, diagnostic odds ratio 104). TLB is a quick, minimally-invasive, low-risk technique that can be applied in clinical practice for evidencing lung cancer, and it can be used in screening and monitoring actions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
BRAF Mutation Status in Circulating Tumor DNA from Patients with Metastatic Colorectal Cancer: Extended Mutation Analysis from the AGEO RASANC Study
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 998; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070998 - 17 Jul 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
In patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), RAS and BRAF mutations are currently determined by tumor sample analysis. Here, we report BRAF mutation status analysis in paired tumor tissue and plasma samples of mCRC patients included in the AGEO RASANC prospective cohort study. [...] Read more.
In patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), RAS and BRAF mutations are currently determined by tumor sample analysis. Here, we report BRAF mutation status analysis in paired tumor tissue and plasma samples of mCRC patients included in the AGEO RASANC prospective cohort study. Four hundred and twenty-five patients were enrolled. Plasma samples were analyzed by next-generation sequencing (NGS). When no mutation was identified, we used two methylated specific biomarkers (digital droplet PCR) to determine the presence or absence of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Patients with conclusive ctDNA results were defined as those with at least one mutation or one methylated biomarker. The kappa coefficient and accuracy were 0.79 (95% CI: 0.67–0.91) and 97.3% (95% CI: 95.2–98.6%) between the BRAF status in plasma and tissue for patients with available paired samples (n = 405), and 0.89 (95% CI: 0.80–0.99) and 98.5% (95% CI: 96.4–99.5%) for those with conclusive ctDNA (n = 323). The absence of liver metastasis was the main factor associated to inconclusive ctDNA results. In patients with liver metastasis, the kappa coefficient was 0.91 (95% CI, 0.81–1.00) and accuracy was 98.6% (95% CI, 96.5–99.6%). We demonstrate satisfying concordance between tissue and plasma BRAF mutation detection, especially in patients with liver metastasis, arguing for plasma ctDNA testing for routine BRAF mutation analysis in these patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
Open AccessArticle
Could Circulating Tumor Cells and ARV7 Detection Improve Clinical Decisions in Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer? The Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori (INT) Experience
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 980; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070980 - 13 Jul 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Enzalutamide and abiraterone have been shown to improve progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients. Moreover, some patients may not benefit from the inhibition of androgen receptor (AR) activity or, alternatively, may develop secondary resistance. Detection [...] Read more.
Enzalutamide and abiraterone have been shown to improve progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients. Moreover, some patients may not benefit from the inhibition of androgen receptor (AR) activity or, alternatively, may develop secondary resistance. Detection in patients’ circulating tumor cells (CTCs) of ARV7, a splicing variant of AR lacking the ligand-binding domain, showed a link with treatment failure. Independent confirmation of the predictive role of CTC status combined with ARV7 detection is, therefore, a priority for extending personalized biomarker-driven treatments to all patients. In this prospective observational study, CTC status and the expression of AR and ARV7 were measured in 37 mCRPC patients, before starting treatment with enzalutamide or abiraterone, by employing commercially available kits. CTC status was positive in 21/37 patients: 46% and 24% of CTC-positive patients were defined as AR- and ARV7-positive, respectively. Kaplan–Meier estimates showed that positivity for each variable was significantly associated with poorer radiological PFS, PSA-PFS, and OS. All considered treatment outcomes worsened when going from CTC-negative to CTC-positive/ARV7-negative to CTC-positive/ARV7-positive patients, both in the global case series and in patients stratified into three groups based on basal PSA levels. Presently, technical approaches appear to be mature for introducing CTC/ARV7 tests in clinical practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
In Vivo Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells in High-Risk Non-Metastatic Prostate Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 933; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070933 - 03 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
High-risk non-metastatic prostate cancer (PCa) has the potential to progress into lethal disease. Treatment options are manifold but, given a lack of surrogate biomarkers, it remains unclear which treatment offers the best results. Several studies have reported circulating tumor cells (CTCs) to be [...] Read more.
High-risk non-metastatic prostate cancer (PCa) has the potential to progress into lethal disease. Treatment options are manifold but, given a lack of surrogate biomarkers, it remains unclear which treatment offers the best results. Several studies have reported circulating tumor cells (CTCs) to be a prognostic biomarker in metastatic PCa. However, few reports on CTCs in high-risk non-metastatic PCa are available. Herein, we evaluated CTC detection in high-risk non-metastatic PCa patients using the in vivo CellCollector CANCER01 (DC01) and CellSearch system. CTC counts were analyzed and compared before and after radiotherapy (two sampling time points) in 51 high-risk non-metastatic PCa patients and were further compared according to isolation technique; further, CTC counts were correlated to clinical features. Use of DC01 resulted in a significantly higher percentage of CTC-positive samples compared to CellSearch (33.7% vs. 18.6%; p = 0.024) and yielded significantly higher CTC numbers (range: 0–15 vs. 0–5; p = 0.006). Matched pair analysis of samples between two sampling time points showed no difference in CTC counts determined by both techniques. CTC counts were not correlated with clinicopathological features. In vivo enrichment using DC01 has the potential to detect CTC at a higher efficiency compared to CellSearch, suggesting that CTC is a suitable biomarker in high-risk non-metastatic PCa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
DNA-Repair Gene Mutations Are Highly Prevalent in Circulating Tumour DNA from Multiple Myeloma Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 917; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070917 - 29 Jun 2019
Abstract
Mutational characterisation utilising plasma (PL)-derived circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in multiple myeloma (MM) has been recently described. Mutational analyses of paired bone marrow (BM) MM cell DNA and ctDNA from 76 patients (n = 24, new diagnosis (ND), n = 52, relapsed/refractory [...] Read more.
Mutational characterisation utilising plasma (PL)-derived circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in multiple myeloma (MM) has been recently described. Mutational analyses of paired bone marrow (BM) MM cell DNA and ctDNA from 76 patients (n = 24, new diagnosis (ND), n = 52, relapsed/refractory (RR)) for (ras/raf signaling pathway) and tumour protein p53 (TP53) mutations using the OnTarget™ Mutation Detection (OMD) platform was performed. The total number and proportions of mutations in each of the compartments (BM-specific, PL-specific or shared) was significantly higher in RR patients compared to ND patients (p = 0.0002 and p < 0.0001, respectively). Patients with > 2 mutations or > 1% fractional abundance (FA) in the PL had significantly shorter overall survival (OS) (p = 0.04 and p = 0.0006, respectively). Patients with PL-specific TP53 mutations had significantly shorter OS compared to patients with no PL-TP53 mutations (p = 0.003), while no differences were observed in patients with (K-ras) KRAS mutations. Targeted deep amplicon sequencing (TAS) of matched PL and BM samples from 36 MM patients for DNA-repair and RAS-RAF pathway genes found that DNA-repair genes were present at significantly higher levels in the PL when compared to RAS-RAF mutations (p = 0.0095). We conclude that ctDNA analysis identifies a higher prevalence of potentially actionable DNA-repair gene mutated subclones than BM analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Diagnostic Leukapheresis Enables Reliable Transcriptomic Profiling of Single Circulating Tumor Cells to Characterize Inter-Cellular Heterogeneity in Terms of Endocrine Resistance
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 903; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070903 - 28 Jun 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) hold great promise with regard to prognosis, treatment optimization, and monitoring of breast cancer patients. Single CTC transcriptome profiling might help reveal valuable information concerning intra-patient heterogeneity relevant to therapeutic interventions. In this study, we combined Diagnostic Leukapheresis (DLA), [...] Read more.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) hold great promise with regard to prognosis, treatment optimization, and monitoring of breast cancer patients. Single CTC transcriptome profiling might help reveal valuable information concerning intra-patient heterogeneity relevant to therapeutic interventions. In this study, we combined Diagnostic Leukapheresis (DLA), which is a microfluidic enrichment using the ParsortixTM system, micromanipulation with CellCelectorTM and subsequent single cell multi-marker transcriptome profiling. First, a PCR panel consisting of 30 different endocrine resistance and phenotypic marker genes was validated for single cell profiling by using different breast cancer cell lines. Second, this panel was applied to characterize uncultured and cultured CTCs, which were enriched from a cryopreserved DLA product obtained from a patient suffering from metastatic breast cancer resistant to endocrine therapy. Gene expression profiles of both CTC populations uncovered inter CTC heterogeneity for transcripts, which are associated with response or resistance to endocrine therapy (e.g., ESR1, HER2, FGFR1). Hierarchical clustering revealed CTC subpopulations with different expressions of transcripts regarding the CTCs’ differential phenotypes (EpCAM, CD44, CD24, MYC, MUC1) and of transcripts involved in endocrine signaling pathways (FOXO, PTEN). Moreover, ER-positive CTCs exhibited significant higher expression of Cyclin D1, which might be relevant for CDK4/6 inhibitor therapies. Overall, gene expression profiles of uncultured and cultured CTCs resulted in a partly combined grouping. Our findings demonstrate that multi-marker RNA profiling of enriched single uncultured CTCs and cultured CTCs form cryopreserved DLA samples may provide important insights into intra-patient heterogeneity relevant for targeted therapies and therapy resistance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Utility of Circulating Cell-Free RNA Analysis for the Characterization of Global Transcriptome Profiles of Multiple Myeloma Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 887; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060887 - 25 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
In this study, we evaluated the utility of extracellular RNA (exRNA) derived from the plasma of multiple myeloma (MM) patients for whole transcriptome characterization. exRNA from 10 healthy controls (HC), five newly diagnosed (NDMM), and 12 relapsed and refractory (RRMM) MM patients were [...] Read more.
In this study, we evaluated the utility of extracellular RNA (exRNA) derived from the plasma of multiple myeloma (MM) patients for whole transcriptome characterization. exRNA from 10 healthy controls (HC), five newly diagnosed (NDMM), and 12 relapsed and refractory (RRMM) MM patients were analyzed and compared. We showed that ~45% of the exRNA genes were protein-coding genes and ~85% of the identified genes were covered >70%. Compared to HC, we identified 632 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in MM patients, of which 26 were common to NDMM and RRMM. We further identified 54 and 191 genes specific to NDMM and RRMM, respectively, and these included potential biomarkers such as LINC00863, MIR6754, CHRNE, ITPKA, and RGS18 in NDMM, and LINC00462, PPBP, RPL5, IER3, and MIR425 in RRMM, that were subsequently validated using droplet digital PCR. Moreover, single nucleotide polymorphisms and small indels were identified in the exRNA, including mucin family genes that demonstrated different rates of mutations between NDMM and RRMM. This is the first whole transcriptome study of exRNA in hematological malignancy and has provided the basis for the utilization of exRNA to enhance our understanding of the MM biology and to identify potential biomarkers relevant to the diagnosis and prognosis of MM patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Advancing Risk Assessment of Intermediate Risk Prostate Cancer Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 855; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060855 - 20 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The individual risk to progression is unclear for intermediate risk prostate cancer patients. To assess their risk to progression, we examined the level of genomic instability in circulating tumor cells (CTCs) using quantitative three-dimensional (3D) telomere analysis. Data of CTCs from 65 treatment-naïve [...] Read more.
The individual risk to progression is unclear for intermediate risk prostate cancer patients. To assess their risk to progression, we examined the level of genomic instability in circulating tumor cells (CTCs) using quantitative three-dimensional (3D) telomere analysis. Data of CTCs from 65 treatment-naïve patients with biopsy-confirmed D’Amico-defined intermediate risk prostate cancer were compared to radical prostatectomy pathology results, which provided a clinical endpoint to the study and confirmed pre-operative pathology or demonstrated upgrading. Hierarchical centroid cluster analysis of 3D pre-operative CTC telomere profiling placed the patients into three subgroups with different potential risk of aggressive disease. Logistic regression modeling of the risk of progression estimated odds ratios with 95% confidence interval (CI) and separated patients into “stable” vs. “risk of aggressive” disease. The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve showed an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.77, while prostate specific antigen (PSA) (AUC of 0.59) and Gleason 3 + 4 = 7 vs. 4 + 3 = 7 (p > 0.6) were unable to predict progressive or stable disease. The data suggest that quantitative 3D telomere profiling of CTCs may be a potential tool for assessing a patient’s prostate cancer pre-treatment risk. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Determination of PD-L1 Expression in Circulating Tumor Cells of NSCLC Patients and Correlation with Response to PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 835; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060835 - 17 Jun 2019
Cited by 15
Abstract
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) hold great potential to answer key questions of how non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) evolves and develops resistance upon anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment. Currently, their clinical utility in NSCLC is compromised by a low detection rate with the established, Food and [...] Read more.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) hold great potential to answer key questions of how non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) evolves and develops resistance upon anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment. Currently, their clinical utility in NSCLC is compromised by a low detection rate with the established, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, EpCAM-based CellSearch® System. We tested an epitope-independent method (ParsortixTM system) and utilized it to assess PD-L1 expression of CTCs from NSCLC patients. We prospectively collected 127 samples, 97 of which were analyzed with the epitope-independent system in comparison to the CellSearch system. CTCs were determined by immunocytochemistry as intact, nucleated, CD45, pankeratins (K)+ cells. PD-L1 status of CTCs was evaluated from 89 samples. With the epitope-independent system, ≥1 CTC per blood sample was detected in 59 samples (61%) compared to 31 samples (32%) with the EpCAM-based system. Upon PD-L1 staining, 47% of patients harbored only PD-L1+CTCs, 47% had PD-L1+ and PD-L1CTCs, and only 7% displayed exclusively PD-L1CTCs. The percentage of PD-L1+CTCs did not correlate with the percentage of PD-L1+ in biopsies determined by immunohistochemistry (p = 0.179). Upon disease progression, all patients showed an increase in PD-L1+CTCs, while no change or a decrease in PD-L1+CTCs was observed in responding patients (n = 11; p = 0.001). Our data show a considerable heterogeneity in the PD-L1 status of CTCs from NSCLC patients. An increase of PD-L1+CTCs holds potential to predict resistance to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
PD-L1 Expression with Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition of Circulating Tumor Cells Is Associated with Poor Survival in Curatively Resected Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 806; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060806 - 11 Jun 2019
Cited by 11
Abstract
In addition to the FDA-approved definition of a circulating tumor cell (CTC), various CTC phenotypes have been discovered. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of cancer cells is directly linked to PD-L1 upregulation. The goal of the study was to investigate PD-L1 expression and EMT in [...] Read more.
In addition to the FDA-approved definition of a circulating tumor cell (CTC), various CTC phenotypes have been discovered. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of cancer cells is directly linked to PD-L1 upregulation. The goal of the study was to investigate PD-L1 expression and EMT in CTCs of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, and perform an outcome analysis. Prospectively, 7.5 mL peripheral blood was collected from 30 NSCLC patients that underwent surgery and 15 healthy controls. CTCs were enriched by size-based microfilter and immunofluorescence stainings performed (cytokeratin (CK) 8/18/19, EpCAM, CD45, PD-L1, EMT markers vimentin, and N-Cadherin, DAPI). Patient-matched NSCLC tissues were also stained. CTC staining intensity was quantified with a software and correlated with patient-matched NSCLC tissues and survival. PD-L1 and EMT markers were expressed at significantly higher proportions in CTCs than patient-matched NSCLC tissues (p < 0.05); ≥3 PD-L1pos/EMTposCTCs were associated with significantly poorer survival after curative surgery (p < 0.05). No CTCs were detected in 15 healthy controls. This study shows that PD-L1 expression and EMT of CTCs is a negative survival predictor for NSCLC patients. The therapeutic role of the molecular linkage of PD-L1 and EMT will need to be further investigated, as linked pathways could be targeted to improve NSCLC outcome. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Comparative Analysis of Two Methods for the Detection of EGFR Mutations in Plasma Circulating Tumor DNA from Lung Adenocarcinoma Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 803; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060803 - 10 Jun 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are associated with various solid tumors. This study aimed to compare two methods for the detection of EGFR mutations in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) patients and to evaluate the [...] Read more.
Mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are associated with various solid tumors. This study aimed to compare two methods for the detection of EGFR mutations in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) patients and to evaluate the clinical significance of EGFR mutations in ctDNA. In this prospective cohort study, the EGFR mutation status of 77 patients with stage IIIB or IV LUAD was first determined using lung cancer tissue. The amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS) and single allele base extension reaction combined with mass spectroscopy (SABER/MassARRAY) methods were also used to detect EGFR mutations in plasma ctDNA from these patients and then compared using the EGFR mutation status in lung cancer tissue as a standard. Furthermore, the relationship between the presence of EGFR mutations in ctDNA after receiving first-line EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI) therapy and survival was evaluated. The overall sensitivity and specificity for the detection of EGFR mutations in plasma ctDNA by ARMS and SABER/MassARRAY were 49.1% vs. 56% and 90% vs. 95%, respectively. The agreement level between these methods was very high, with a kappa-value of 0.88 (95% CI 0.77–0.99). Moreover, 43 of the patients who carried EGFR mutations also received first-line EGFR-TKI therapy. Notably, patients with EGFR mutations in plasma ctDNA had significantly shorter progression-free survival (9.0 months, 95% CI 7.0–11.8, vs. 15.0 months, 95% CI 11.7–28.2; p = 0.02) and overall survival (30.6 months, 95% CI 12.4–37.2, vs. 55.6 months, 95% CI 25.8–61.8; p = 0.03) compared to those without detectable EGFR mutations. The detection of EGFR mutations in plasma ctDNA is a promising, minimally invasive, and reliable alternative to tumor biopsy, and the presence of EGFR mutations in plasma ctDNA after first-line EGFR-TKI therapy is associated with poor prognosis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Detecting and Tracking Circulating Tumour DNA Copy Number Profiles during First Line Chemotherapy in Oesophagogastric Adenocarcinoma
Cancers 2019, 11(5), 736; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11050736 - 27 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
DNA somatic copy number aberrations (SCNAs) are key drivers in oesophagogastric adenocarcinoma (OGA). Whether minimally invasive SCNA analysis of circulating tumour (ct)DNA can predict treatment outcomes and reveal how SCNAs evolve during chemotherapy is unknown. We investigated this by low-coverage whole genome sequencing [...] Read more.
DNA somatic copy number aberrations (SCNAs) are key drivers in oesophagogastric adenocarcinoma (OGA). Whether minimally invasive SCNA analysis of circulating tumour (ct)DNA can predict treatment outcomes and reveal how SCNAs evolve during chemotherapy is unknown. We investigated this by low-coverage whole genome sequencing (lcWGS) of ctDNA from 30 patients with advanced OGA prior to first-line chemotherapy and on progression. SCNA profiles were detectable pretreatment in 23/30 (76.7%) patients. The presence of liver metastases, primary tumour in situ, or of oesophageal or junctional tumour location predicted for a high ctDNA fraction. A low ctDNA concentration associated with significantly longer overall survival. Neither chromosomal instability metrics nor ploidy correlated with chemotherapy outcome. Chromosome 2q and 8p gains before treatment were associated with chemotherapy responses. lcWGS identified all amplifications found by prior targeted tumour tissue sequencing in cases with detectable ctDNA as well as finding additional changes. SCNA profiles changed during chemotherapy, indicating that cancer cell populations evolved during treatment; however, no recurrent SCNA changes were acquired at progression. Tracking the evolution of OGA cancer cell populations in ctDNA is feasible during chemotherapy. The observation of genetic evolution warrants investigation in larger series and with higher resolution techniques to reveal potential genetic predictors of response and drivers of chemotherapy resistance. The presence of liver metastasis is a potential biomarker for the selection of patients with high ctDNA content for such studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Circulating Cell-Free DNA and RNA Analysis as Liquid Biopsy: Optimal Centrifugation Protocol
Cancers 2019, 11(4), 458; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11040458 - 30 Mar 2019
Cited by 10
Abstract
The combined analysis of circulating cell-free (tumor) DNA (cfDNA/ctDNA) and circulating cell-free (tumor) RNA (cfRNA/ctRNA) shows great promise in determining the molecular profile of cancer patients. Optimization of the workflow is necessary to achieve consistent and reproducible results. In this study, we compared [...] Read more.
The combined analysis of circulating cell-free (tumor) DNA (cfDNA/ctDNA) and circulating cell-free (tumor) RNA (cfRNA/ctRNA) shows great promise in determining the molecular profile of cancer patients. Optimization of the workflow is necessary to achieve consistent and reproducible results. In this study, we compared five centrifugation protocols for the optimal yield of both cfDNA/ctDNA and cfRNA/ctRNA. These protocols varied in centrifugation speed, ambient temperature, time, and number of centrifugation steps. Samples from 33 participants were collected in either BD Vacutainer K2EDTA (EDTA) tubes or cell-free DNA BCT® (Streck) tubes. cfDNA concentration and fragment size, and cfRNA concentration were quantitated in all samples by digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) and quantitative PCR (qPCR). The KRAS-mutated ctDNA and ctRNA fraction was determined via ddPCR. In EDTA tubes, the protocol generating both plasma and platelets was found to produce high quality cfDNA and cfRNA concentrations. Two-step, high-speed centrifugation protocols were associated with high cfDNA but low cfRNA concentrations. High cfRNA concentrations were generated by a one-step, low-speed protocol. However, this coincided with a high amount of genomic DNA (gDNA) contamination. In Streck tubes, two-step, high-speed centrifugation protocols also generated good quality, high cfDNA concentration. However, these tubes are not compatible with cfRNA analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
A Pilot Clinical Study on the Prognostic Relevance of Plasmatic Exosomes Levels in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(3), 429; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11030429 - 26 Mar 2019
Cited by 13
Abstract
Background: To evaluate the relationship between the plasmatic CD63 and CAV1 positive exosome levels, in patients with OSCC before and after surgical treatment and to correlate it with their overall survival. Methods: A double-blind pilot study over 10 patients OSCC and T4 stage [...] Read more.
Background: To evaluate the relationship between the plasmatic CD63 and CAV1 positive exosome levels, in patients with OSCC before and after surgical treatment and to correlate it with their overall survival. Methods: A double-blind pilot study over 10 patients OSCC and T4 stage without distant metastases or local bone invasion has been performed. The average follow-up period was 37.64 months (34.3–40.84). We obtained 2 plasma tubes of 1 mL each before surgery and 7 days after surgery. Before performing the immunocapture-based analysis, EVs (Extracellular Vesicles) were isolated from the plasma and characterized with western blot analysis. Results: Mean values of CD63 positive plasmatic exosomes (EXO-CD63) after surgery decreased from 750.88 ± 286.67 to 541.71 ± 244.93 (p = 0.091). On the other hand, CAV-1 positive plasmatic exosomes (EXO-CAV-1) increased after surgery from 507 ± 483.39 to 1120.25 ± 1151.17 (p = 0.237). Patients with EXO-CD63 levels lower than the mean global value before the surgery had a survival of 36.04 months compared with the group with EXO-CD63 higher than the average who only survived 12.49 ± 1.67 months from the diagnosis, p = 0.225. When EXO-CAV-1 levels before surgery was lower than the average (813.94 ± 801.21) overall survival was 24.69 ± 22.23 months in contrast when it was higher that was only 11.64 months, p = 0.157. Patients with lower EXO-CD63 levels after surgery lived an average of 23.84 ± 23.9 months, while those with higher plasmatic levels of EXO-CD63 live 13.35 months, p = 0.808. When EXO-CAV-1 levels after surgery were lower, the average overall survival was 20.344 ± 15.40 months, in contrast when the EXO-CAV-1 levels were higher showing rather an estimate survival expectation of 1.64 months. Conclusions: Surgical treatment induced a dramatic reduction of the plasmatic levels of exosomes expressing CD63 as early as 1 week after resection. This first result suggests that the tumour mass is responsible of the high levels of circulating exosomes detected in cancer patients. At the same time point exosome expressing CAV-1 increased, possibly due to the inflammatory reaction immediately after surgery. Lastly, statistical analysis showed that lower levels of plasmatic exosomes both before and after surgery correlated with a better life expectancy of OSCC patients. Hopefully, this approach will prove useful in the clinical follow-up of cancer patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Non-Metastatic Esophageal Adenocarcinoma: Circulating Tumor Cells in the Course of Multimodal Tumor Treatment
Cancers 2019, 11(3), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11030397 - 21 Mar 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Background: Isolation of circulating tumor cells (CTC) holds the promise to improve response-prediction and personalization of cancer treatment. In this study, we test a filtration device for CTC isolation in patients with non-metastatic esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) within recent multimodal treatment protocols. Methods: Peripheral [...] Read more.
Background: Isolation of circulating tumor cells (CTC) holds the promise to improve response-prediction and personalization of cancer treatment. In this study, we test a filtration device for CTC isolation in patients with non-metastatic esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) within recent multimodal treatment protocols. Methods: Peripheral blood specimens were drawn from EAC patients before and after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (FLOT)/chemoradiation (CROSS) as well as after surgery. Filtration using ScreenCell® devices captured CTC for cytologic analysis. Giemsa-stained specimens were evaluated by a cytopathologist; the cut-off was 1 CTC/specimen (6 mL). Immunohistochemistry with epithelial (pan-CK) and mesenchymal markers (vimentin) was performed. Results: Morphologically diverse malignant CTCs were found in 12/20 patients in at least one blood specimen. CTCs were positive for both vimentin and pan-CK. More patients were CTC positive after neoadjuvant therapy (6/20 vs. 9/15) and CTCs per/ml increased in most of the CTC-positive patients. After surgery, 8/13 patients with available blood specimens were still CTC positive. In clinical follow-up, 5/9 patients who died were CTC-positive. Conclusions: Detection of CTC by filtration within multimodal treatment protocols of non-metastatic EAC is feasible. The rate of CTC positive findings and the quantity of CTCs changes in the course of multimodal neoadjuvant chemoradiation/chemotherapy and surgery. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Limited Sensitivity of Circulating Tumor DNA Detection by Droplet Digital PCR in Non-Metastatic Operable Gastric Cancer Patients
Cancers 2019, 11(3), 396; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11030396 - 21 Mar 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
This study was designed to monitor circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) levels during perioperative chemotherapy in patients with non-metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma. Plasma samples were prospectively collected in patients undergoing perioperative chemotherapy for non-metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma (excluding T1N0) prior to the initiation of perioperative chemotherapy, [...] Read more.
This study was designed to monitor circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) levels during perioperative chemotherapy in patients with non-metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma. Plasma samples were prospectively collected in patients undergoing perioperative chemotherapy for non-metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma (excluding T1N0) prior to the initiation of perioperative chemotherapy, before and after surgery (NCT02220556). In each patient, mutations retrieved by targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) on tumor samples were then tracked in circulating cell-free DNA from 4 mL of plasma by droplet digital PCR. Thirty-two patients with a diagnosis of non-metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma were included. A trackable mutation was identified in the tumor in 20 patients, seven of whom experienced relapse during follow-up. ctDNA was detectable in four patients (N = 4/19, sensitivity: 21%; 95% confidence interval CI = 8.5–43%, no baseline plasma sample was available for one patient), with a median allelic frequency (MAF) of 1.6% (range: 0.8–2.3%). No patient with available plasma samples (N = 0/18) had detectable ctDNA levels before surgery. After surgery, one of the 13 patients with available plasma samples had a detectable ctDNA level with a low allelic frequency (0.7%); this patient experienced a very short-term distant relapse only 3 months after surgery. No ctDNA was detected after surgery in the other four patients with available plasma samples who experienced a later relapse (median = 14.4, range: 9.3–26 months). ctDNA monitoring during preoperative chemotherapy and after surgery does not appear to be a useful tool in clinical practice for non-metastatic gastric cancer to predict the efficacy of chemotherapy and subsequent relapse, essentially due to the poor sensitivity of ctDNA detection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Phenotypic Characterization of Circulating Lung Cancer Cells for Clinically Actionable Targets
Cancers 2019, 11(3), 380; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11030380 - 18 Mar 2019
Cited by 10
Abstract
Objectives: In non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), tumour biopsy can often be an invasive procedure. The development of a non-invasive methodology to study genetic changes via circulating tumour cells (CTCs) is an appealing concept. Whilst CTCs typically remain as rare cells, improvements in [...] Read more.
Objectives: In non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), tumour biopsy can often be an invasive procedure. The development of a non-invasive methodology to study genetic changes via circulating tumour cells (CTCs) is an appealing concept. Whilst CTCs typically remain as rare cells, improvements in epitope-independent CTC isolation techniques has given rise to a greater capture of CTCs. In this cross sectional study, we demonstrate the capture and characterization of NSCLC CTCs for the clinically actionable markers epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) alterations, anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangements and programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression. The study identified CTCs/CTC clusters in 26/35 Stage IV NSCLC patients, and subsequently characterized the CTCs for EGFR mutation, ALK status and PD-L1 status. This pilot study demonstrates the potential of a non-invasive fluid biopsy to determine clinically relevant biomarkers in NSCLC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Molecular Subtype Conversion between Primary and Metastatic Breast Cancer Corresponding to the Dynamics of Apoptotic and Intact Circulating Tumor Cells
Cancers 2019, 11(3), 342; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11030342 - 11 Mar 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
The presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), detected as a form of liquid biopsy is associated with poor survival in both early and metastatic breast cancer. Monitoring tumor biology based on intrinsic subtypes delivers treatment-relevant information on the heterogeneity or biomarker conversion between [...] Read more.
The presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), detected as a form of liquid biopsy is associated with poor survival in both early and metastatic breast cancer. Monitoring tumor biology based on intrinsic subtypes delivers treatment-relevant information on the heterogeneity or biomarker conversion between primary and metastatic tumors. This study aimed to correlate the change of the apoptotic and intact CTC counts with mRNA-assessed intrinsic subtype change. Thirty-four breast cancer patients with available triplets of primary tumors, distant metastasis biopsies and data on intact and apoptotic CTC dynamics were included in the analysis. The intrinsic subtype was determined per RT-qPCR quantification of the gene expression ESR1, PGR, ERBB2 and MKI67. Both luminal (p = 0.038) and triple negative (p = 0.035) patients showed a significant downregulation of apoptotic CTCs. Repeated biopsies of distant metastatic sites, as well as determining a potential shift of the intrinsic subtype, combined with data on intact and apoptotic CTC dynamics from liquid biopsies might help personalize systemic therapy and generate additional surrogate markers for successful systemic therapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Exosome Analysis in Tumor-Draining Pulmonary Vein Identifies NSCLC Patients with Higher Risk of Relapse after Curative Surgery
Cancers 2019, 11(2), 249; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11020249 - 21 Feb 2019
Cited by 7
Abstract
Since tumor-draining pulmonary vein blood (PV) is enriched in tumor-secreted products, we hypothesized that it would also be enriched in tumor-derived exosomes, which would be important in the metastasis process. We characterized exosomes from PV of 61 resected non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) [...] Read more.
Since tumor-draining pulmonary vein blood (PV) is enriched in tumor-secreted products, we hypothesized that it would also be enriched in tumor-derived exosomes, which would be important in the metastasis process. We characterized exosomes from PV of 61 resected non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients to evaluate its potential as relapse biomarkers. Exosomes were characterized using transmission electron microscopy, western blot and nanoparticle tracking analysis and we examined time to relapse (TTR) and overall survival (OS). Differences between PV and peripheral vein were found. PV was enriched in smaller exosomes than the paired peripheral vein (p = 0.01). Moreover, PV exosome size mode was able to identify relapsed patients (Area under the curve [AUC] = 0.781; 95%CI: 0.6641–0.8978), in whom exosome size was smaller (<112 nm; p < 0.001). The combination of PV exosome size and N (lymph node involvement) showed an AUC of 0.89 (95%CI: 0.80–0.97). Moreover, smaller PV exosome size was associated with shorter TTR (28.3 months vs. not reached, p < 0.001) and OS (43.9 months vs. not reached, p = 0.009). Multivariate analyses identified PV exosome size and stage as independent prognostic markers for TTR and OS. PV exosome size is a promising relapse biomarker after surgery that can add valuable information to clinical variables. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Continuous Separation of Circulating Tumor Cells from Whole Blood Using a Slanted Weir Microfluidic Device
Cancers 2019, 11(2), 200; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11020200 - 10 Feb 2019
Cited by 9
Abstract
The separation of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from the peripheral blood is an important issue that has been highlighted because of their high clinical potential. However, techniques that depend solely on tumor-specific surface molecules or just the larger size of CTCs are limited [...] Read more.
The separation of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from the peripheral blood is an important issue that has been highlighted because of their high clinical potential. However, techniques that depend solely on tumor-specific surface molecules or just the larger size of CTCs are limited by tumor heterogeneity. Here, we present a slanted weir microfluidic device that utilizes the size and deformability of CTCs to separate them from the unprocessed whole blood. By testing its ability using a highly invasive breast cancer cell line, our device achieved a 97% separation efficiency, while showing an 8-log depletion of erythrocytes and 5.6-log depletion of leukocytes. We also developed an image analysis tool that was able to characterize the various morphologies and differing deformability of the separating cells. From the results, we believe our system possesses a high potential for liquid biopsy, aiding future cancer research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
Capture of Circulating Tumour Cell Clusters Using Straight Microfluidic Chips
Cancers 2019, 11(1), 89; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11010089 - 14 Jan 2019
Cited by 22
Abstract
Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are the metastatic precursors to distant disease in head and neck cancers (HNCs). Whilst the prognostic and predictive value of single CTCs have been well documented, the role of CTC clusters, which potentially have a higher metastatic capacity are [...] Read more.
Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are the metastatic precursors to distant disease in head and neck cancers (HNCs). Whilst the prognostic and predictive value of single CTCs have been well documented, the role of CTC clusters, which potentially have a higher metastatic capacity are limited. In this study, the authors used a novel straight microfluidic chip to focus and capture CTCs. The chip offers high cell recoveries with clinically relevant numbers (10–500 cells/mL) without the need for further purification. Single CTCs were identified in 10/21 patient samples (range 2–24 CTCs/mL), CTC clusters in 9/21 patient samples (range 1–6 CTC clusters/mL) and circulating tumour microemboli (CTM) in 2/21 samples. This study demonstrated that CTC clusters contain EGFR amplified single CTCs within the cluster volume. This novel microfluidic chip demonstrates the efficient sorting and preservation of single CTCs, CTC clusters and CTMs. The authors intend to expand this study to a larger cohort to determine the clinical implication of the CTC subsets in HNC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessArticle
The Circulating Transcriptome as a Source of Biomarkers for Melanoma
Cancers 2019, 11(1), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11010070 - 10 Jan 2019
Cited by 10
Abstract
The circulating transcriptome is a valuable source of cancer biomarkers, which, with the exception of microRNAs (miRNAs), remains relatively unexplored. To elucidate which RNAs are present in plasma from melanoma patients and which could be used to distinguish cancer patients from healthy individuals, [...] Read more.
The circulating transcriptome is a valuable source of cancer biomarkers, which, with the exception of microRNAs (miRNAs), remains relatively unexplored. To elucidate which RNAs are present in plasma from melanoma patients and which could be used to distinguish cancer patients from healthy individuals, we used next generation sequencing (NGS), and validation was carried out by qPCR and/or ddPCR. We identified 442 different microRNAs in samples, eleven of which were differentially expressed (p < 0.05). Levels of miR-134-5p and miR-320a-3p were significantly down-regulated (p < 0.001) in melanoma samples (n = 96) compared to healthy controls (n = 28). Differentially expressed protein-encoding mRNA 5′-fragments were enriched for the angiopoietin, p21-activated kinase (PAK), and EIF2 pathways. Levels of ATM1, AMFR, SOS1, and CD109 gene fragments were up-regulated (p < 0.001) in melanoma samples (n = 144) compared to healthy controls (n = 41) (AUC = 0.825). Over 40% of mapped reads were YRNAs, a class of non-coding RNAs that to date has been little explored. Expression levels of RNY3P1, RNY4P1, and RNY4P25 were significantly higher in patients with stage 0 disease than either healthy controls or more advanced stage disease (p < 0.001). In conclusion, we have identified a number of novel RNA biomarkers, which, most importantly, we validated in multi-center retrospective and prospective cohorts, suggesting potential diagnostic use of these RNA species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessCommunication
Transient Disappearance of RAS Mutant Clones in Plasma: A Counterintuitive Clinical Use of EGFR Inhibitors in RAS Mutant Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
Cancers 2019, 11(1), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11010042 - 04 Jan 2019
Cited by 7
Abstract
Genomic studies performed through liquid biopsies widely elucidated the evolutionary trajectory of RAS mutant clones under the selective pressure of EGFR inhibitors in patients with wild type RAS primary colorectal tumors. Similarly, the disappearance of RAS mutant clones in plasma has been more [...] Read more.
Genomic studies performed through liquid biopsies widely elucidated the evolutionary trajectory of RAS mutant clones under the selective pressure of EGFR inhibitors in patients with wild type RAS primary colorectal tumors. Similarly, the disappearance of RAS mutant clones in plasma has been more recently reported in some patients with primary RAS mutant cancers, supporting for the first time an unexpected negative selection of RAS mutations during the clonal evolution of mCRC. To date, the extent of conversion to RAS wild type disease at the time of progression has not been clarified yet. As a proof of concept, we prospectively enrolled mCRC patients progressing under anti-VEGF based treatments. Idylla™ system was used to screen RAS mutations in plasma and the wild type status of RAS was further confirmed through IT-PGM (Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine) sequencing. RAS was found mutant in 55% of cases, retaining the same plasma mutation as in the primary tumor at diagnosis, while it was found wild-type in 45%. Four patients testing negative for RAS mutations in plasma at the time of progression of disease (PD) were considered eligible for treatment with EGFR inhibitors and treated accordingly, achieving a clinical benefit. We here propose a hypothetical algorithm that accounts for the transient disappearance of RAS mutant clones over time, which might extend the continuum of care of mutant RAS colorectal cancer patients through the delivery of a further line of therapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview
Liquid Biopsy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Highlights and Challenges
Cancers 2020, 12(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12010017 - 19 Dec 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Non-small cell lung cancer is one leading cause of death worldwide, and patients would greatly benefit from an early diagnosis. Since targeted and immunotherapies have emerged as novel approaches for more tailored treatments, repeated assessments of the tumor biology have become pivotal to [...] Read more.
Non-small cell lung cancer is one leading cause of death worldwide, and patients would greatly benefit from an early diagnosis. Since targeted and immunotherapies have emerged as novel approaches for more tailored treatments, repeated assessments of the tumor biology have become pivotal to drive clinical decisions. Currently, tumor tissue biopsy is the gold standard to investigate potentially actionable biomarkers, but this procedure is invasive and may prove inadequate to represent the whole malignancy. In this regard, liquid biopsy represents a minimally invasive and more comprehensive option for early detection and investigation of this tumor. Today, cell-free DNA is the only approved circulating marker to select patients for a targeted therapy. Conversely, the other tumor-derived markers (i.e., circulating tumor cells, miRNAs, exosomes, and tumor educated platelets) are still at a pre-clinical phase, although they show promising results for their application in screening programs or as prognostic/predictive biomarkers. The main challenges for their clinical translation are the lack of reliable cutoffs and, especially for miRNAs, the great variability among the studies. Moreover, no established tool has been approved for circulating tumor cells and exosome isolation. Finally, large prospective clinical trials are mandatory to provide evidence of their clinical utility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
Open AccessReview
Noncoding RNAs in Extracellular Fluids as Cancer Biomarkers: The New Frontier of Liquid Biopsies
Cancers 2019, 11(8), 1170; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11081170 - 14 Aug 2019
Cited by 15
Abstract
The last two decades of cancer research have been devoted in two directions: (1) understanding the mechanism of carcinogenesis for an effective treatment, and (2) improving cancer prevention and screening for early detection of the disease. This last aspect has been developed, especially [...] Read more.
The last two decades of cancer research have been devoted in two directions: (1) understanding the mechanism of carcinogenesis for an effective treatment, and (2) improving cancer prevention and screening for early detection of the disease. This last aspect has been developed, especially for certain types of cancers, thanks also to the introduction of new concepts such as liquid biopsies and precision medicine. In this context, there is a growing interest in the application of alternative and noninvasive methodologies to search for cancer biomarkers. The new frontiers of the research lead to a search for RNA molecules circulating in body fluids. Searching for biomarkers in extracellular body fluids represents a better option for patients because they are easier to access, less painful, and potentially more economical. Moreover, the possibility for these types of samples to be taken repeatedly, allows a better monitoring of the disease progression or treatment efficacy for a better intervention and dynamic treatment of the patient, which is the fundamental basis of personalized medicine. RNA molecules, freely circulating in body fluids or packed in microvesicles, have all the characteristics of the ideal biomarkers owing to their high stability under storage and handling conditions and being able to be sampled several times for monitoring. Moreover, as demonstrated for many cancers, their plasma/serum levels mirror those in the primary tumor. There are a large variety of RNA species noncoding for proteins that could be used as cancer biomarkers in liquid biopsies. Among them, the most studied are microRNAs, but recently the attention of the researcher has been also directed towards Piwi-interacting RNAs, circular RNAs, and other small noncoding RNAs. Another class of RNA species, the long noncoding RNAs, is larger than microRNAs and represents a very versatile and promising group of molecules which, apart from their use as biomarkers, have also a possible therapeutic role. In this review, we will give an overview of the most common noncoding RNA species detectable in extracellular fluids and will provide an update concerning the situation of the research on these molecules as cancer biomarkers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Evolving Clinical Utility of Liquid Biopsy in Gastrointestinal Cancers
Cancers 2019, 11(8), 1164; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11081164 - 13 Aug 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Room for improvement exists regarding recommendations for screening, staging, therapy selection, and frequency of surveillance of gastrointestinal cancers. Screening is costly and invasive, improved staging demands increased sensitivity and specificity to better guide therapy selection. Surveillance requires increased sensitivity for earlier detection and [...] Read more.
Room for improvement exists regarding recommendations for screening, staging, therapy selection, and frequency of surveillance of gastrointestinal cancers. Screening is costly and invasive, improved staging demands increased sensitivity and specificity to better guide therapy selection. Surveillance requires increased sensitivity for earlier detection and precise management of recurrences. Peripherally collected blood-based liquid biopsies enrich and analyze circulating tumor cells and/or somatic genomic material, including circulating tumor DNA along with various subclasses of RNA. Such assays have the potential to impact clinical practice at multiple stages of management in gastrointestinal cancers. This review summarizes current basic and clinical evidence for the utilization of liquid biopsy in cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, colon, and rectum. Technical aspects of various liquid biopsy methodologies and targets are reviewed and evidence supporting current commercially available assays is examined. Finally, current clinical applicability, potential future uses, and pitfalls of applying liquid biopsy to the screening, staging and therapeutic management of these diseases are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Liquid Biopsy in Glioblastoma: Opportunities, Applications and Challenges
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 950; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070950 - 05 Jul 2019
Cited by 8
Abstract
Liquid biopsy represents a minimally invasive procedure that can provide similar information from body fluids to what is usually obtained from a tissue biopsy sample. Its implementation in the clinical setting might significantly renew the field of medical oncology, facilitating the introduction of [...] Read more.
Liquid biopsy represents a minimally invasive procedure that can provide similar information from body fluids to what is usually obtained from a tissue biopsy sample. Its implementation in the clinical setting might significantly renew the field of medical oncology, facilitating the introduction of the concepts of precision medicine and patient-tailored therapies. These advances may be useful in the diagnosis of brain tumors that currently require surgery for tissue collection, or to perform genetic tumor profiling for disease classification and guidance of therapy. In this review, we will summarize the most recent advances and putative applications of liquid biopsy in glioblastoma, the most common and malignant adult brain tumor. Moreover, we will discuss the remaining challenges and hurdles in terms of technology and biology for its clinical application. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Is the Blood an Alternative for Programmed Cell Death Ligand 1 Assessment in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 920; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070920 - 30 Jun 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Anti-programmed cell death (PD)-1/PD-ligand 1 (L1) therapies have significantly improved the outcomes for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients in recent years. These therapies work by reactivating the immune system and enabling it to target cancer cells once more. There is a general [...] Read more.
Anti-programmed cell death (PD)-1/PD-ligand 1 (L1) therapies have significantly improved the outcomes for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients in recent years. These therapies work by reactivating the immune system and enabling it to target cancer cells once more. There is a general agreement that expression of PD-L1 on tumour cells predicts the therapeutic response to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors in NSCLC. Hence, immunohistochemical staining of tumour tissue biopsies from NSCLC patients with PD-L1 antibodies is the current standard used to aid selection of patients for treatment with anti-PD-1 as first line therapy. However, issues of small tissue samples, tissue heterogeneity, the emergence of new metastatic sites, and dynamic changes in the expression of PD-L1 may influence PD-L1 status during disease evolution. Re-biopsy would expose patients to the risk of complications and tardy results. Analysis of PD-L1 expression on circulating tumour cells (CTCs) may provide an accessible and non-invasive means to select patients for anti-PD-1 therapies. Additionally, CTCs could potentially provide a useful biomarker in their own right. Several published studies have assessed PD-L1 expression on CTCs from NSCLC patients. Overall, analysis of PD-L1 on CTCs is feasible and could be detected prior to and after frontline therapy. However, there is no evidence on whether PD-L1 expression on CTCs could predict the response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment. This review examines the challenges that need to be addressed to demonstrate the clinical validity of PD-L1 analysis in CTCs as a biomarker capable of predicting the response to immune checkpoint blockade. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Clinical Translatability of “Identified” Circulating miRNAs for Diagnosing Breast Cancer: Overview and Update
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 901; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070901 - 27 Jun 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
The effective management of patients with breast cancer (BC) depends on the early diagnosis of the disease. Currently, BC diagnosis is based on diagnostic imaging and biopsy, while the use of non-invasive circulating biomarkers for diagnosis remains an unmet need. Among the plethora [...] Read more.
The effective management of patients with breast cancer (BC) depends on the early diagnosis of the disease. Currently, BC diagnosis is based on diagnostic imaging and biopsy, while the use of non-invasive circulating biomarkers for diagnosis remains an unmet need. Among the plethora of proposed non-invasive biomarkers, circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) have been considered promising diagnostic molecules because they are very stable in biological fluids and easily detectable. Although the discovery of miRNAs has opened a new avenue for their clinical application, the clinical translatability of these molecules remains unclear. This review analyses the role of circulating miRNAs as BC diagnostic biomarkers and focuses on two essential requirements to evaluate their clinical validity: i) Specificity and ii) consistent expression between the blood and tissue. These two issues were analyzed in depth using the Human miRNA Disease Database (HMDD v3.0) and the free search engine PubMed. One hundred and sixty three BC-associated miRNAs were selected and analyzed for their specificity among all human pathologies that shared deregulation (291) and consistent expression in the bloodstream and the tissue. In addition, we provide an overview of the current clinical trials examining miRNAs in BC. In conclusion, we highlight pitfalls in the translatability of circulating miRNAs into clinical practice due to the lack of specificity and a consistent expression pattern between the tissue and blood. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Circulating microRNAs as Promising Biomarkers in Colorectal Cancer
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 898; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070898 - 27 Jun 2019
Cited by 12
Abstract
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Despite numerous advances in therapeutic approaches, this cancer has a poor prognosis when it is diagnosed at late stages. Therefore, the scientific effort is nowadays [...] Read more.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Despite numerous advances in therapeutic approaches, this cancer has a poor prognosis when it is diagnosed at late stages. Therefore, the scientific effort is nowadays directed towards the development of new non-invasive and dynamic biomarkers to improve the survival expectancy of CRC patients. In this sense, deregulated expression of many miRNAs has been shown to play an important role for CRC carcinogenesis and dissemination. Noticeably, an increasing number of studies highlight that circulating miRNAs, including those traveling inside exosomes or those released by tumor cells into circulation, constitute a promising tool for early detection, prognosis and therapy selection of CRC. Therefore, in this review we focus on the clinical potential of blood circulating miRNAs as emerging biomarkers with high value to improve the clinical management of CRC patients, providing a deep and complete perspective of the realities and challenges to translate these biomarkers to the clinical context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Salivary Extracellular Vesicle-Associated exRNA as Cancer Biomarker
Cancers 2019, 11(7), 891; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11070891 - 26 Jun 2019
Cited by 7
Abstract
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) secreted in biological fluids contain several transcripts of the cell of origin, which may modify the functions and phenotype of proximal and distant cells. Cancer-derived EVs may promote a favorable microenvironment for cancer growth and invasion by acting on stroma [...] Read more.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) secreted in biological fluids contain several transcripts of the cell of origin, which may modify the functions and phenotype of proximal and distant cells. Cancer-derived EVs may promote a favorable microenvironment for cancer growth and invasion by acting on stroma and endothelial cells and may favor metastasis formation. The transcripts contained in cancer EVs may be exploited as biomarkers. Protein and extracellular RNA (exRNA) profiling in patient bio-fluids, such as blood and urine, was performed to identify molecular features with potential diagnostic and prognostic values. EVs are concentrated in saliva, and salivary EVs are particularly enriched in exRNAs. Several studies were focused on salivary EVs for the detection of biomarkers either of non-oral or oral cancers. The present paper provides an overview of the available studies on the diagnostic potential of exRNA profiling in salivary EVs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Exo-miRNAs as a New Tool for Liquid Biopsy in Lung Cancer
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 888; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060888 - 25 Jun 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
Lung cancer is the predominant cause of cancer-related deaths. The high mortality rates are mainly due to the lack of diagnosis before the cancer is at a late stage. Liquid biopsy is a promising technique that could allow early diagnosis of lung cancer [...] Read more.
Lung cancer is the predominant cause of cancer-related deaths. The high mortality rates are mainly due to the lack of diagnosis before the cancer is at a late stage. Liquid biopsy is a promising technique that could allow early diagnosis of lung cancer and better treatment selection for patients. Cell-free microRNAs have been detected in biological fluids, such as serum and plasma, and are considered interesting biomarkers for lung cancer screening and detection. Exosomes are nanovesicles of 30–150 nm and can be released by different cell types within the tumor microenvironment. Their exosomal composition reflects that of their parental cells and could be potentially useful as a biomarker for lung cancer diagnosis. This review summarizes the state-of-the-art of circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) in lung cancer, focusing on their potential use in clinical practice. Moreover, we describe the importance of exosomal miRNA cargo in lung cancer detection and their potential role during lung carcinogenesis. Finally, we discuss our experience with the analysis of circulating exosomal miRNAs in the bioMILD screening trial. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Liquid Biopsy Approach for Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 852; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060852 - 19 Jun 2019
Cited by 6
Abstract
Pancreatic cancer is a public health problem because of its increasing incidence, the absence of early diagnostic tools, and its aggressiveness. Despite recent progress in chemotherapy, the 5-year survival rate remains below 5%. Liquid biopsies are of particular interest from a clinical point [...] Read more.
Pancreatic cancer is a public health problem because of its increasing incidence, the absence of early diagnostic tools, and its aggressiveness. Despite recent progress in chemotherapy, the 5-year survival rate remains below 5%. Liquid biopsies are of particular interest from a clinical point of view because they are non-invasive biomarkers released by primary tumours and metastases, remotely reflecting disease burden. Pilot studies have been conducted in pancreatic cancer patients evaluating the detection of circulating tumour cells, cell-free circulating tumour DNA, exosomes, and tumour-educated platelets. There is heterogeneity between the methods used to isolate circulating tumour elements as well as the targets used for their identification. Performances for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer vary depending of the technique but also the stage of the disease: 30–50% of resectable tumours are positive and 50–100% are positive in locally advanced and/or metastatic cases. A significant prognostic value is demonstrated in 50–70% of clinical studies, irrespective of the type of liquid biopsy. Large prospective studies of homogeneous cohorts of patients are lacking. One way to improve diagnostic and prognostic performances would be to use a combined technological approach for the detection of circulating tumour cells, exosomes, and DNA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Liquid Biopsies for Ovarian Carcinoma: How Blood Tests May Improve the Clinical Management of a Deadly Disease
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 774; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060774 - 04 Jun 2019
Abstract
Ovarian cancers (OvC) are frequent, with more than 22,000 new cases each year for 14,000 deaths in the United States. Except for patients with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, diagnostic methods, prognostic tools, and therapeutic strategies have not much improved in the last two [...] Read more.
Ovarian cancers (OvC) are frequent, with more than 22,000 new cases each year for 14,000 deaths in the United States. Except for patients with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, diagnostic methods, prognostic tools, and therapeutic strategies have not much improved in the last two decades. High throughput tumor molecular analyses have identified important alterations involved in ovarian carcinoma growth and spreading. However, these data have not modified the clinical management of most of patients. Moreover, tumor sample collection requires invasive procedures not adapted to objectives, such as the screening, prediction, or assessment of treatment efficacy, monitoring of residual disease, and early diagnosis of relapse. In recent years, circulating tumor biomarkers (also known as “liquid biopsies”) such as circulating tumor cells, circulating nucleotides (DNA or miRNA), or extracellular vesicles, have been massively explored through various indications, platforms, and goals, but their use has not yet been validated in routine practice. This review describes the methods of analysis and results related to liquid biopsies for ovarian epithelial cancer. The different settings that a patient can go through during her journey with OvC are explored: screening and early diagnosis, prognosis, prediction of response to systemic therapies for advanced stages, and monitoring of residual subclinical disease. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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Open AccessReview
Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy in Cancer Diagnosis, Prognosis and Monitoring
Cancers 2019, 11(6), 748; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060748 - 29 May 2019
Cited by 11
Abstract
As medicine continues to advance our understanding of and knowledge about the complex and multifactorial nature of cancer, new major technological challenges have emerged in the design of analytical methods capable of characterizing and assessing the dynamic heterogeneity of cancer for diagnosis, prognosis [...] Read more.
As medicine continues to advance our understanding of and knowledge about the complex and multifactorial nature of cancer, new major technological challenges have emerged in the design of analytical methods capable of characterizing and assessing the dynamic heterogeneity of cancer for diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring, as required by precision medicine. With this aim, novel nanotechnological approaches have been pursued and developed for overcoming intrinsic and current limitations of conventional methods in terms of rapidity, sensitivity, multiplicity, non-invasive procedures and cost. Eminently, a special focus has been put on their implementation in liquid biopsy analysis. Among optical nanosensors, those based on surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) have been attracting tremendous attention due to the combination of the intrinsic prerogatives of the technique (e.g., sensitivity and structural specificity) and the high degree of refinement in nano-manufacturing, which translate into reliable and robust real-life applications. In this review, we categorize the diverse strategic approaches of SERS biosensors for targeting different classes of tumor biomarkers (cells, nucleic acids and proteins) by illustrating key recent research works. We will also discuss the current limitations and future research challenges to be addressed to improve the competitiveness of SERS over other methodologies in cancer medicine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Biopsy for Cancer)
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