The Big Picture

Using a liquid biopsy can identify rare mutations in advanced breast cancer, which may enable patients to access effective treatment quicker in the future.

12 December 2019

Professor Nick Turner

Professor Nick Turner, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, presented findings from the PlasmaMATCH clinical trial at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

He explained the trial, made up largely of Royal Marsden patients, detected mutations in the DNA from the tumours, which had been shed into the bloodstream. The trial, which received support from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and the ICR, found specific weaknesses in the breast cancer DNA that could be targeted with drugs.

Professor Nicholas Turner looked for traces of three mutations in genes called HER2, ESR1 and AKT1, which are known to drive breast cancer. 

He said: “The choice of targeted treatment we give to patients is usually based on the mutations found in the original breast tumour. But the cancer can have different mutations after it has moved to other parts of the body. 

“We have now confirmed that liquid biopsies can quickly give us a bigger picture of the mutations within multiple tumours throughout the body, getting the results back to patients accurately and faster than we could before. This matters a lot in terms of making decisions, particularly for those with advanced breast cancer who need to be put on new treatments quickly.”