Liquid biopsy testing is a new laboratory-based method that detects tumour mutations in circulating free DNA (cfDNA) derived from minimally invasive blood sampling techniques. Recognising the significance for clinical testing, in 2017, IQN Path provided external quality assessment for liquid biopsy testing. Representatives of those participating laboratories were invited to attend a workshop to discuss the findings and how to achieve quality implementation of cfDNA testing in the clinical setting, the discussion and outcomes of this consensus meeting are described below. Predictive molecular profiling using tumour tissue in order to select cancer patients eligible for targeted therapy is now routine in diagnostic pathology. If insufficient tumour tissue material is available, in some circumstances, recent European Medicines Agency (EMA) guidance recommends mutation testing with plasma cfDNA. Clinical applications of cfDNA include treatment selection based on clinically relevant mutations derived from pre-treatment samples and the detection of resistant mutations upon progression of the disease. In order to identify tumour-related mutations in amongst other nucleic acid material found in plasma samples, highly sensitive laboratory methods are needed. In the workshop, we discussed the variable approaches taken with regard to cfDNA extraction methods, the tests, and considered the impact of false-negative test results. We explored the lack of standardisation of complex testing procedures ranging from plasma collection, transport, processing and storage, cfDNA extraction, and mutation analysis, to interpretation and reporting of results. We will also address the current status of clinical validation and clinical utility, and its use in current diagnosis. This workshop revealed a need for guidelines on with standardised procedures for clinical cfDNA testing and reporting, and a requirement for cfDNA-based external quality assessment programs.
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