Liquid biopsy: The future of minimal residual disease detection?

Written by Victoria Simms, March 16, 2022. reviewed by Celina Whalley, April 26 2024.


Detection of minimal residual disease

Minimal residual disease (MRD) is defined as a very small number of cancer cells that remain in the body during or after treatment.1 This may be locally at the site of surgery, distant at metastatic sites or at unknown micrometastatic deposits. The assessment of post-treatment minimal residual disease remains challenging clinically as current gold-standard methods do not exhibit sufficient sensitivity and specificity. Thus, both the patient and the clinician remain in a watch-and-wait scenario until the tumor once again becomes 'clinically manifest'. This wastes precious time where using a more sensitive and informative method such as liquid biopsy may allow the clinician to act earlier and stratify treatment more appropriately to enhance patient outcomes.

Liquid biopsy for detection of MRD 

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Liquid biopsy: Considerations and solutions

Liquid biopsy for MRD: concluding considerations

MRD detection through ctDNA analysis is one of the most promising and potentially transformative applications for liquid biopsy within oncology. These biomarkers provide a depth of holistic insight currently unseen within standard clinical practice and long before traditional relapse can be picked up via methods such as imaging. The research being undertaken at present also further bolsters this argument by showing the value of ctDNA as a clear indicator of MRD. Whilst there are still certain obstacles and standardization that needs to occur before its implementation into the daily clinic for MRD detection, these clinical trials show considerable promise and above all, a glimpse of the potential real-world impact that this non-invasive tool could have. As such, liquid biopsy may feasibly be the future of MRD detection.