The emerging role of liquid biopsy in gastric cancer

Csongor György Lengyel, Sadaqat Hussain, Dario Trapani, Khalid El Bairi, Sara Cecilia Altuna, Andreas Seeber, Andrew Odhiambo, Baker Shalal Habeeb, Fahmi Seid

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


(1) Background: Liquid biopsy (LB) is a novel diagnostic method with the potential of revolutionizing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of several solid tumors. The present paper aims to summarize the current knowledge and explore future possibilities of LB in the management of metastatic gastric cancer. (2) Methods: This narrative review examined the most recent literature on the use of LB-based techniques in metastatic gastric cancer and the current LB-related clinical trial landscape. (3) Results: In gastric cancer, the detection of circulating cancer cells (CTCs) has been recognized to have a prognostic role in all the disease stages. In the setting of localized disease, cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) qualitative and quantitative detection have the potential to inform on the risk of cancer recurrence and metastatic dissemination. In addition, gastric cancer-released exosomes may play an essential part in metastasis formation. In the metastatic setting, the levels of cfDNA show a positive correlation with tumor burden. There is evidence that circulating tumor microemboli (CTM) in the blood of metastatic patients is an independent prognostic factor for shorter overall survival. Gastric cancer-derived exosomal microRNAs or clonal mutations and copy number variations detectable in ctDNA may contribute resistance to chemotherapy or targeted therapies, respectively. There is conflicting and limited data on CTC-based PD-L1 verification and cfDNA-based Epstein–Barr virus detection to predict or monitor immunotherapy responses. (4) Conclusions: Although preliminary studies analyzing LBs in patients with advanced gastric cancer appear promising, more research is required to obtain better insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying resistance to systemic therapies. Moreover, validation and standardization of LB methods are crucial before introducing them in clinical practice. The feasibility of repeatable, minimally invasive sampling opens up the possibility of selecting or dynamically changing therapies based on prognostic risk or predictive biomarkers, such as resistance markers. Research is warranted to exploit a possible transforming area of cancer care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2108
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • CfDNA
  • Circulating tumor cell
  • CtDNA
  • Epithelial– mesenchymal transition
  • HER2-inhibition
  • Immunother-apy
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Metastatic gastric cancer
  • Resistance to treatment
  • Response monitoring
  • VEGFR-inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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