Guardant360 provides an alternative to biopsies by using blood samples of cancer patients.
Pinpointing all the genetic mutations that trigger cancer is a huge Big Data task, and we’ve seen companies use crowdsourcing as a solution, through gamified apps and smartphone computational power. In a potential breakthrough in tumor diagnostics, Guardant Health have developed a blood test alternative to tissue sampling.
The team has developed highly sensitive DNA analysis software called Guardant360, which identifies tiny amounts of tumor fragments that enter the bloodstream, mapping specific DNA mutations. The team suggests this method is more reliable than biopsies, as cancerous tumors can be driven by many different DNA mutations that may not be present in every region of the tumor, and by drawing just two vials of blood at various stages, doctors can receive a picture of how a tumor is responding to treatment over time. As FastCompany has reported, the patient care can also be improved, as biopsies have downfalls that result in cancer patients only being administered once or twice, which makes it more difficult for oncologists to understand the tumor’s progress.
Guardant360 currently costs USD 5400 per patient, and has a user base of 20,000 per year. But as there is already a degree of competition, the startup is in the process of securing further funding and partners to lower the price. Although there are still unknown elements in this test — it is still not completely clear whether the genome alternations found in the blood resembles those in the biopsy — the blood test may pick up things that are not in the biopsy and reveal new treatment options.
Could the ‘liquid biopsy’ become the norm?