Pancreatic Cancer: are "liquid biopsies" ready for prime-time?

Alexandra Lewis, Juan Valle, Mairead Mcnamara

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Pancreatic cancer is a disease that carries a poor prognosis. Accurate tissue diagnosis is required. Tumours contain a high content of stromal tissue and therefore biopsies may be inconclusive.

Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) have been investigated as a potential “liquid biopsy” in several malignancies and have proven to be of prognostic value in breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. They have been detected in patients with localised and metastatic pancreatic cancer with sensitivities ranging from 38-100% using a variety of platforms. Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) has also been detected in pancreas cancer with a sensitivity ranging from 26-100% in studies across different platforms and using different genetic markers. However, there is no clear consensus on which platform is the most effective for detection, nor which genetic markers are the most useful to use. Potential roles of liquid biopsies include diagnosis, screening, guiding therapies and prognosis. The presence of CTCs or ctDNA has been shown to be of prognostic value both at diagnosis and after treatment in patients with pancreatic cancer. However, more prospective studies are required before this promising technology is ready for adoption into routine clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7175-7185
Number of pages11
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number32
Early online date28 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Pancreatic; cancer; liquid biopsy; circulating; tumour; cells; ctDNA

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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