Cancer screening for circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in the bloodstream, Liquid Biopsy, is a fast growing market. Research has shown that early diagnosis of cancer, compared to late stage diagnosis, significantly improves the survival rates in patients.
Liquid biopsy is a 20 – 40 billion USD market for stage II cancer detection and a 100 – 200 billion USD market for stage I cancer and tissue of origin detection. For this reason, many companies offer reagents and assays to detect early stage cancers using this non-invasive technique. Among them, Grail, a spin-off from Illumina, has been working on a pan-cancer liquid biopsy assay for asymptomatic individuals that is targeted for release in 2019.
Earlier this week, a research team led by the Tokyo-based National Cancer Center Japan announced that they have developed a new liquid biopsy test to diagnose 13 kinds of cancers from a single drop of blood. The 13 kinds of cancers are stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, biliary tract cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, bone and soft tissue tumor, and glioma. The team will start a clinical study next month.
This is great news to the cancer diagnostics field. As more players are fighting to release the clinically applicable tests, we are bound to have a liquid biopsy assay, approved by the regulators like FDA, in the near future. However, before we get there, there are lots of hurdles to be cleared, such as the low abundance of the ctDNA, a reliable reference sample set, as well as the cost.