The term ‘liquid biopsy’, introduced in 2013 in reference to the analysis of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in cancer patients, was extended to cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) circulating in blood and other body fluids. CTCs and cfNAs are now considered diagnostic and prognostic markers, used as surrogate materials for the molecular characterisation of solid tumours, in particular for research on tumour-specific or actionable somatic mutations. Molecular characterisation of cfNAs and CTCs (especially at the single cell level) is technically challenging, requiring highly sensitive and specific methods and/or multi-step processes. The analysis of the liquid biopsy relies on a plethora of methods whose standardisation cannot be accomplished without disclosing criticisms related to the pre-analytical phase. Thus, pre-analytical factors potentially influencing downstream cellular and molecular analyses must be considered in order to translate the liquid biopsy approach into clinical practice. Researchers from the University of Florence summarize the most recent reports in this field, discussing the main pre-analytical aspects related to CTCs, cfNAs and exosomes in blood samples for liquid biopsy analysis.
The pre-analytical phase of the liquid biopsy
Salvianti F, Gelmini S, Costanza F, Mancini I, Sonnati G, Simi L, Pazzagli M, Pinzani P. (2019) The pre-analytical phase of the liquid biopsy. N Biotechnol S1871-6784(18)31962-9. [abstract]