Liquid Biopsies May Detect Cancers Other Tests Miss

Though doctors in Connecticut may recommend an annual screening test for prostate cancer, the results of the PSA are not always accurate. Men who test negative for prostate cancer after having a PSA test may actually have a cancer that the test didn’t recognize. Tests called liquid biopsies could diagnose cancer missed by a PSA by detecting cancerous cells in a patient’s blood.

Liquid biopsies are relatively new and most of the companies offering these tests have not yet hit the market. One man behind a biotech startup called Freenome was able to use a liquid biopsy test to diagnose his own father with cancer. Though the man’s 61-year-old father tested negative for prostate cancer at his annual screening, a liquid biopsy test helped to determine that he actually had an aggressive form of the disease.

Freenome looks at DNA fragments in blood samples and uses advanced computing to find biological signatures of cancer. One of the challenges of diagnosing prostate cancer is that the disease can be asymptomatic in its early stages. One in every seven men is affected by prostate cancer, and many men are not diagnosed until the disease has reached a late stage. While tissue biopsies are invasive and costly, liquid biopsies only require a small blood sample and are expected to be affordable once they become available.

Some false negatives are the result of issues with the test and some false negatives are caused by human error. A doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim in some instances. A lawyer who has experience with this type of litigation will review the patient’s medical records and obtain expert medical testimony in order to determine whether the case should move forward.