Innovator: On-Ramp to the Cancer Genomics Superhighway

August 3, 2015
Innovator: On-Ramp to the Cancer Genomics Superhighway
Guardant360, Guardant Health’s pan-cancer blood test, is designed to help oncologists prescribe the right treatments at the right time based on the changing genetics of a patient’s cancer. The test does not rely on biopsies, which are risky and costly and typically fail to capture genetic changes that may emerge over time or in response to several cycles of therapy. Instead, the test uses blood samples, which constitute a relatively safe and convenient source of genetic information, one that can be tapped at frequent intervals.

Kevin Mayer

The phrase “information superhighway” sounds quaint nowadays, but only because digital communications has evolved so quickly. Discussion of things digital, once preoccupied with network access and data throughput, is now focused on life-changing applications, such as social networking and data-mining. A similar transition—from speed as a problem to speed as an enabler—may soon be underway in cancer genomics. When this transition is realized, cancer genomics will be less about technicalities, and more about patient benefits.

Until recently, cancer genomics relied almost exclusively on the sequencing of tumor biopsy material. Only this material, acquired by means of inherently difficult and potentially dangerous procedures, could yield actionable information on cancer-associated DNA alterations.

Unfortunately, this material is often hard to obtain, so serial tumor biopsies remain impractical, effectively denying doctors and their patients the benefits of tracking cancers over time.

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