Penn Medicine’s Liquid Biopsy Laboratory develops and provides comprehensive liquid biopsy services — blood tests that detect materials shed from a tumor and can change the course of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Until recently, a tumor biopsy was the standard test to determine a cancer diagnosis and treatment plan. However, this approach can be invasive and inconclusive.

Liquid biopsies give fast, safe and non-surgical access to a tumor's genetic information so oncologists can more accurately diagnose and quickly treat patients with therapies that target their particular genetic mutations.

The Liquid Biopsy team at Penn Medicine recently published a report showing that liquid biopsy can almost double the rate of detection for treatable mutations in non-small cell lung cancer. This offers patients more treatment options and precise care with minimal discomfort — and is a reason why liquid biopsies are rapidly becoming a cornerstone of personalized cancer medicine.

"With a simple blood test, we can now get information that can change the course of a patient's cancer treatment, all without the invasiveness of a surgery," said Erica L. Carpenter, MBA, PhD, director of the Liquid Biopsy Lab. 

Other advantages to liquid biopsies include:

  • Reducing the “time to treat” 
  • Providing real-time monitoring of therapy throughout treatment with a simple blood draw
  • Providing an option for cancer patients unable to have a tissue biopsy
  • Having the potential to detect cancer early
  • Predicting when a patient may develop drug resistance and detect recurrences months earlier than conventional imaging methods
  • Having the potential to increase cancer survival gains through precision mutation targeting

The Impact of Liquid Biopsies

The Liquid Biopsy Lab:

  • Processes over 500 liquid biopsies per month and over 6,000 per year
  • Provides comprehensive liquid biopsy services for lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, renal cell carcinoma, pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma, multiple myeloma, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, esophageal cancer and bladder cancer
  • Collaborates on 20+ clinical trials

“The Liquid Biopsy Lab is having a profound effect on lung cancer patients at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. The ever-expanding number of targeted therapies for our patients has been accompanied by a need for precision, and real-time diagnostics with the liquid biopsy has ushered a paradigm shift in lung cancer care," said Corey Langer, MD, the director of Thoracic Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Liquid biopsies are giving Kim more time

Lung cancer patient, Kim, holding her grandson for the first timeLung cancer patient, Kim Belcastro, was told she only had six months to live. That was almost six years ago. The liquid biopsy procedure has allowed her physician to be able to see exactly when to adjust her cancer medications to keep her cancer at bay.


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