Guardant liquid biopsy matches cancer patients to treatment, comparable to tumor biopsy

Guardant Health CEO Helmy Eltoukhy

In a big week for liquid biopsy, Guardant Health and Samsung Medical Center reported success from the first clinical trial using a blood test to match metastatic cancer patients to appropriate therapies.

The two-year study, dubbed NEXT-2, involved 200 patients and used the Guardant360 liquid biopsy to evaluate advanced cancer patients' response to matched therapy. The liquid biopsy results were on par with the results from an earlier trial, NEXT-1, which used invasive tissue-based testing. Additionally, patients matched to therapies using Guardant360 showed response rates comparable to those of patients who were matched using tumor biopsies.

"This blood-based technology also overcomes tumor heterogeneity by providing a more global summary of all the aberrations in different metastatic sites. It also may reduce harm to patients by obviating the need for invasive biopsy," said Dr. Jeeyun Lee of Samsung Medical Center in a statement.

While there are a number of players in the liquid biopsy space, Guardant360 is the first and only liquid biopsy that covers all 70 guideline-recommended biomarkers in a single test. It retails for $5,800 and Guardant "processes" more than 20,000 tests a year, according to a spokesman quoted by Xconomy.

While Guardant started 2016 strong, nabbing a $100 million Series D round, the company isn't going full speed ahead just yet. It's working on proving the tech can spot previously undetected cancers in high-risk patients, such as smokers or women who have tested positive for BRCA mutations, before turning to the general population, Xconomy reported.

"We're taking a methodical approach," said CEO Helmy Eltoukhy, as quoted by Xconomy. "Once we understand that group we can go to completely asymptomatic patients."

On May 26, the company launched its LUNAR program, in which it is sponsoring studies to test high-risk people for certain cancers at institutions including Samsung Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and UC San Francisco. The cancers being tested for are breast, ovarian, pancreatic, lung and colorectal.

Just last week, the FDA approved the first liquid biopsy test for use in clinical decision-making. The blood-based test, known as the cobas EGFR Mutation Test v2, was developed by Roche ($RHHBY) and detects epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations in non-small cell lung cancer patients. Illumina ($ILMN) is charging ahead, too, launching its liquid biopsy spinoff, Grail, in January and recruiting former Google exec Jeffrey Huber to run it.

- here's the release
- and here's the Xconomy story