Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Koch Institute at MIT, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital have developed an accurate, scalable approach for monitoring cancer DNA from blood samples.

"Our ultimate hope is to use blood biopsies to exhaustively search for and characterize even the smallest remnants of tumors," explained Viktor Adalsteinsson, co-first author on the paper and group leader at the Broad Institute, where he leads the Blood Biopsy Team.

"And, as tumors evolve in more advanced stages of cancer, developing resistance or becoming metastatic, we might access timepoints that could be pivotal in deciding which therapies are right for that patient."

This ability to detect and analyze cancer DNA from a patient's blood sample is emerging as a promising alternative to invasive surgical biopsies, which can be difficult, painful, and costly -- especially when tumors have appeared in locations that are challenging to access.

Blood biopsies (also called liquid biopsies) are poised to overcome many of these issues.

They have the potential to allow doctors to track the progress of disease and treatment in real-time and to help researchers understand how tumors resist treatment with far greater resolution.

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