Liquid Biopsy

Staff; Michiel Pegtel, Florent Mouliere

Nowadays, cancer is still diagnosed through painful and invasive tissue biopsies of a suspected mass. Additional (repeat) tissue biopsies are sometimes necessary in the follow up, increasing the chance of complications. 

By making use of the Liquid Biopsy Center initiative, we aim to develop and test novel non-invasive methods for detecting cancer in biofluids. Dr Pegtel focuses  how exosomal small RNAs in cancer patient biofluids can be exploited used for diagnosis, assessment of prognosis, early detection of disease recurrence. To achieve this we study how miRNAs and other ncRNA species are stabilized and secreted into human biofluids (blood, urine and CSF) and make predictions on their origin. Dr Mouliere focuses his research on cell-free DNA. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) make up a small fraction of cfDNA and is now being extensively studied as a noninvasive "real-time" biomarker that can provide diagnostic and prognostic information before, during treatment and at progression. These include cancer-specific DNA mutations, epigenetic alterations and other forms of tumor-specific abnormalities such as microsatellite instability (MSI) and loss of heterozygosity (LOH). ctDNA is of great value in the process of cancer treatment and supported by the CCA-LBC, Dr Florent's major aim is to develop low-cost, easily applicable  solutions for non-invasive cancer diagnostics. To this end new cfDNA and ctDNA enrichment strategies are developed including smart design of new detection techniques, improving current sequencing approaches and use artificial intelligence to mine sequencing data from the plasma of patients with cancer. Ultimately these tests can be utilized for earlier cancer diagnosis, more accurate cancer prognosis and better treatment selection.