Detecting cancer biomarkers in blood: Challenges for new molecular diagnostic and point-of-care tests using cell-free nucleic acids

Jean M. Lewis, Daniel P. Heineck, Michael J. Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

24 Scopus citations


As we move into the era of individualized cancer treatment, the need for more sophisticated cancer diagnostics has emerged. Cell-free (cf) nucleic acids (cf-DNA, cf-RNA) and other cellular nanoparticulates are now considered important and selective biomarkers. There is great hope that blood-borne cf-nucleic acids can be used for liquid biopsies, replacing more invasive tissue biopsies to analyze cancer mutations and monitor therapy. Conventional techniques for cf-nucleic acid biomarker isolation from blood are generally time-consuming, complicated and expensive. They require relatively large blood samples, which must be processed to serum or plasma before isolation of biomarkers can proceed. Such cumbersome sample preparation also limits the widespread use of powerful, downstream genomic analyses, including PCR and DNA sequencing. These limitations also preclude rapid, point-of-care diagnostic applications. Thus, new technologies that allow rapid isolation of biomarkers directly from blood will permit seamless sample-to-answer solutions that enable next-generation point-of-care molecular diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1200
Number of pages14
JournalExpert Review of Molecular Diagnostics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015



  • biomarkers
  • cancer
  • cell-free DNA
  • cell-free RNA
  • exosomes
  • liquid biopsy
  • molecular diagnostics
  • nanoparticulates
  • point-of-care
  • sample preparation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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