Liquid biopsy is a technique that utilizes circulating biomarkers in the body fluids of cancer patients to provide information regarding the genetic landscape of the cancer. It is emerging as an alternative and complementary diagnostic and prognostic tool to surgical biopsy in oncology. Liquid biopsy focuses on the detection and isolation of circulating tumor cells, circulating tumor DNA and exosomes, as a source of genomic and proteomic information in cancer patients. Liquid biopsy is expected to provide the necessary acceleratory force for the implementation of precision oncology in clinical settings by contributing an enhanced understanding of tumor heterogeneity and permitting the dynamic monitoring of treatment responses and genomic variations. However, widespread implementation of liquid biopsy based biomarker-driven therapy in the clinical practice is still in its infancy. Technological advancements have resolved many of the hurdles faced in the liquid biopsy methodologies but sufficient clinical and technical validation for specificity and sensitivity has not yet been attained for routine clinical implementation. This article provides a comprehensive review of the clinical utility of liquid biopsy and its effectiveness as an important diagnostic and prognostic tool in colorectal, breast, hepatocellular, gastric and lung carcinomas which were the five leading cancer related mortalities in 2018.
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