Much research has been performed over the past several decades in an attempt to conquer cancer. Tissue biopsy is the conventional method for gathering biological materials to analyze cancer and has contributed greatly to the understanding of cancer. However, this method is limited because it is time-consuming (requires tissue sectioning, staining, and pathological analysis), costly, provides scarce starting materials for multiple tests, and is painful. A liquid biopsy, which analyzes cancer-derived materials from various body fluids using a minimally invasive procedure, is more practical for real-time monitoring of disease progression than tissue biopsy. Biomarkers analyzable through liquid biopsy include circulating tumor cells (CTCs), exosomes, circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA), miRNA, and proteins. Research on CTCs has been actively conducted because CTCs provide information on the whole cell, unlike the other biomarkers mentioned above. However, owing to the rarity and heterogeneity of CTCs, CTC research faces many critical concerns. Although exosomes and cfDNA have some technical challenges, they are being highlighted as new target materials. That is because they also have genetic information on cancers. Even though the number of exosomes and cfDNA from early stage cancer patients are similar to healthy individuals, they are present in high concentrations after metastasis. In this article, we review several technologies for material analyses of cancer, discuss the critical concerns based on hands-on experience, and describe future directions for cancer screening, detection, and diagnostics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Analytical Chemistry
- Environmental Chemistry