This article was originally published here
ESMO Open. 2021 Feb 26;6(2):100060. doi: 10.1016/j.esmoop.2021.100060. Online ahead of print.
Precision medicine is now pivotal to design patients’ specific treatment strategies with the aim of prolonging progression and overall survival. In this regard, invasive tumor tissue testing has so far been the golden standard for making cancer diagnosis, but has limitations. Cell-free tumor DNA (ctDNA), a form of liquid biopsy, is a noninvasive biomarker that can be isolated from patients’ blood and other biofluids. An increasing body of evidence has demonstrated clinical utility of plasma ctDNA profiling to select patients for genomic-driven therapies. Analyses of mutations in plasma ctDNA have shown high accuracy and more rapid identification of mutations, allowing matching patients for specific therapies with equivalent clinical efficacy to that of the tissue profiling. In the clinical setting, ctDNA has been recently implemented to select patients with specific genomic alterations to targeted treatments, and a few molecular tests have been approved for use in non-small-cell lung, prostate, ovarian, and breast cancers. However, standardization of ctDNA collection, storage, and analysis methods would be critical to facilitate the wide adoption of ctDNA technology in routine clinical practice. This review summarizes how we can exploit ctDNA analysis to treat cancer patients, and explains how the results should be interpreted. In addition, we focus on how ctDNA could be used in the future as a marker of minimal residual disease to guide adjuvant therapy, as an immuno-oncology biomarker in patients treated with immune checkpoint blockade drugs, and as an early cancer detection marker to screen the asymptomatic population.