National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre
Our Research: Cancer Precision Medicine

Monitoring residual disease

Liquid biopsy as an early warning sign for cancer relapse.

Our research into monitoring residual disease with liquid biopsy could make a significant contribution towards improving long-term outcomes for patients, as well as reducing the burden of cancer on the NHS.

For those patients where cancer is detected early, surgery can cure them or dramatically increase their lifespan. However, for example in lung cancer, in around 50% of cases the tumour recurs mainly due to the presence of micro-metastatic disease that remained after surgery.

If we can detect this so-called ‘minimal residual disease’ early, there is potential for earlier intervention and more regular check ups. Patients often suffer anxiety after surgery about their cancer coming back and whether treatment for subsequent tumour relapse will be successful and picking this up earlier may improve patient outcomes.

Through our research we will:

  • Develop liquid biopsy techniques for the monitoring of residual disease and establish processes to enable blood collection to take place in the community. We will test our approach initially through feasibility and pilot studies, before undertaking larger scale clinical studies in lung cancer and in melanoma
  • Work with colleagues expert in nanomaterials to increase the sensitivities of liquid biopsies and efficiencies/sample throughput.  Once optimised the liquid biopsies will also support our Cancer Prevention and Early Detection, Respiratory and Dermatology research
  • Leverage expertise from our Informatics and Data Sciences colleagues in the integrating patient data/histories with our research