Current challenges for detection of circulating tumor cells and cell-free circulating nucleic acids, and their characterization in non-small cell lung carcinoma patients. What is the best blood substrate for personalized medicine?
The practice of “liquid biopsy” as a diagnostic, prognostic and theranostic tool in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients is an appealing approach, at least in theory, since it is noninvasive and easily repeated. In particular, this approach allows patient monitoring during treatment, as well as the detection of different genomic alterations that are potentially accessible to targeted therapy or are associated with treatment resistance. However, clinical routine practice is slow to adopt the liquid biopsy. Several reasons may explain this: (I) the vast number of methods described for potential detection of circulating biomarkers, without a consensus on the ideal technical approach; (II) the multiplicity of potential biomarkers for evaluation, in particular, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) vs. circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA); (III) the difficulty in controlling the pre-analytical phase to obtain robust and reproducible results; (IV) the present cost of the currently available techniques, which limits accessibility to patients; (V) the turnaround time required to obtain results that are incompatible with the urgent need for delivery of treatment. The purpose of this review is to describe the main advances in the field of CTC and ctDNA detection in NSCLC patients and to compare the main advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches.