A study by Fox Chase Cancer Center suggests that genomic profiles measured through circulating free DNA (cfDNA) in the blood of patients with breast cancer may provide a more effective way to treat the disease and track its progression.

Nineteen patients with inflammatory breast cancer took part in the study and blood samples were compared with tissue samples taken from tumors. The researchers were able to conclude that the genetic profile found in the blood samples, also called liquid biopsies, were complementary to those taken from tumors through biopsy.

“The benefit is that taking blood samples is not as invasive, so you can follow patients through the progress of the disease using blood samples,” said Sandra Fernandez, PhD, research faculty member for the Breast Cancer Translational Research Disease Group, in a press release. “The idea of this is to develop a test for future use in the clinic to detect mutations in patients.”

With higher probabilities of cfDNA derived from cancer cells, researchers are more likely to be able to identify mutations throughout the cancer’s progression or remission, according to Fernandez.

Another benefit to this method is that it yields a better understanding of the cancer as a whole, according to the researchers. Since tumors are not uniform and often vary from 1 side to the other, a biopsy taken from 1 side may not accurately reflect the genomic profile of the entire tumor. Therefore, this could make personalized therapies not as effective.

The researchers said that future studies will focus on improving the investigative tools using next-generation sequencing to analyze mutations. These studies will also be expanded to other types of cancer, such as lung, colon, and ovarian.


Fox Chase Researchers Study ‘Liquid Biopsies’ as Possible Method for Improved Cancer Detection and Monitoring Progression [news release]. Philadelphia, PA; Fox Chase Cancer Center: March 13, 2020. https://www.foxchase.org/news/2020-03-13-fox-chase-researchers-study-liquid-biopsies-improved-cancer-detection. Accessed March 27, 2020.