Liquid Biopsy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer—Current Status and Future Outlook

A Narrative Review

Elisabeth Smolle; Valentin Taucher; Jörg Lindenmann; Martin Pichler; Freyja-Maria Smolle-Juettner


Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2021;10(5):2237-2251. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Lung cancer ranks first as the cause of cancer-associated deaths gobally. The American Cancer Society estimates for 228,820 new cases and 135,720 deaths from lung cancer in the United States for the year 2020. Targeted treatment options have rapidly emerged for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) within the past decade. Screening for molecular aberrations is mainly done by tissue biopsy. However, in some cases a biopsy is not possible, or patients do not consent to it. Hence, liquid biopsy remains the only option. Relevant data about the topic of liquid biopsy, with a special focus on NSCLC, was obtained via a PubMed search. We included mainly literature published from 2010 onwards, omitting older studies whenever possible. With this review of the literature, we give an overview of different liquid biopsy approaches, as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages. We have reviewed the assessment of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation status in particular, and go into detail with current use of liquid biopsy in everyday clinical practice. Today, liquid biopsy is still infrequently used, depending on the treatment center, but popularity is steadily increasing. Various different approaches are already available, but costs and level of sensitivity significantly differ between techniques. By using liquid biopsy more widely in selected patients, complication rates can be reduced, and constant disease monitoring is made considerably easier.