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Fox 5's "Big Idea" segment recently profiled Weill Cornell Medicine for its use of liquid biopsies, a relatively noninvasive diagnostic test that can help doctors learn more about a patient's tumor so they can fight it more effectively.
In the past, doctors could only gather tumor cells by physically extracting a sample of tissue or through surgery. But with a liquid biopsy, a simple blood test gives physicians access to those cells.
Liquid biopsies take advantage of cells that break off the tumor and travel through the blood, explained Dr. Scott Tagawa, a Weill Cornell Medicine oncologist and researcher.
"As those cells travel around in the blood we can capture them in a test tube. We could then take those individual cells from the test tube and analyze them," Dr. Tagawa told Fox 5.
Fox 5 also profiled Alex Sarmiento, a Weill Cornell Medicine patient diagnosed with prostate cancer, and showed how the test dramatically improved the 77-year-old's health. At first, treatment kept his health stable, but after a trip to the Philippines, his condition took a turn for the worse. Doctors drew blood to collect a liquid biopsy, which allowed them to analyze Sarmiento's tumor cells and spot a mutation quickly.
"The liquid biopsy helped me quickly make a treatment decision [and] get him a drug that was very effective without a whole lot of toxicity," said Sarmiento's physician, Dr. David Nanus, who is also the chief of hematology and oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Watch the video above to learn more about liquid biopsies and how Weill Cornell Medicine is using the test to help cancer patients like Sarmiento.