Melanoma Liquid Biopsy Q&A

What is a liquid biopsy?

A liquid biopsy is essentially a blood sample. The collection of a blood sample is less invasive than the collection of a tissue biopsy.

The liquid biopsy or blood sample can be used to detect fragments of tumour DNA, so called circulating tumour DNA.

 

What is the melanoma liquid biopsy test that has been accredited at the ONJCR!?

This liquid biopsy is testing for circulating tumour DNA that carries certain mutations in the BRAF gene, in particular a BRAF V600E or BRAF V600K mutation.

 

When is this melanoma liquid biopsy test used?

The melanoma liquid biopsy is available for patients with advanced (Stage 4) melanoma to determine whether their melanoma carries certain mutations in the BRAF gene, in particular a BRAF V600E or BRAF V600K mutation.

The melanoma liquid biopsy can also be used for monitoring patient response to treatment, and for recurrence, when they carry a mutation in the BRAF gene.

 

Why is the liquid biopsy testing for the BRAF gene mutation?

More than 90% of melanoma patients have a BRAF V600E or BRAF V600K mutation. This gene mutations affect the BRAF protein, which plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth.

If a patient tests positive for the BRAF gene mutation, their doctor can prescribe a drug that targets the mutated BRAF protein.

If a patient does not have the BRAF gene mutation, this drug will not work and is therefore an ineffective treatment option.

 

Why would a liquid biopsy be used rather than a tissue biopsy?

For advanced (Stage 4) melanoma, it is critical that a patient is treated as soon as possible.

Finding out if a patient has the BRAF gene mutation from a tissue biopsy takes between usually 2-3 weeks.

A liquid biopsy can provide the same information in less than 3 days. This means the patient can be prescribed treatment sooner, potentially saving their life.

 

Can the test be used to diagnose early stage cancer?

At this stage, it is not being used to diagnose early stage cancer as researchers have not yet established the value of this test for patients who have early stages of melanoma.

 

How do you order this melanoma liquid biopsy test?

A doctor or medical oncologist must order the test on behalf of their patient. Enquiries can be made by email to: epicandx@onjcri.org.au

 

Can this test be accessed from anywhere?

Yes, a doctor or medical oncologist can order this test from anywhere in Australia, or even the world. However, the blood sample would need to be shipped by courier under special condition to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute laboratories in Melbourne, Australia.

No blood sample will be accepted without a completed test request form. To enquire about ordering a test, contact: epicandx@onjcri.org.au

 

How long does the melanoma liquid biopsy test take?

Once the blood sample has arrived at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, results can be provided in less than 3 days.

Where a patient has very late stage cancer and their health may be declining rapidly, the test can be performed in a shorter period of time (24 hours or less), once the blood sample has arrived at the laboratory.

The urgency of the test should be determined between the doctor ordering the test, and the laboratory at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute.

 

How much does a melanoma liquid biopsy cost?

There is a cost for this test. It is not covered by Medicare.

For information on pricing, contact: epicandx@onjcri.org.au

 

Can this liquid biopsy test be used for other cancer types?

No, this test is specific to melanoma.

The laboratory at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute is also accredited for a similar liquid biopsy for lung cancer which tests for certain EGRF gene mutations.

 

Are other liquid biopsy tests for cancer being developed?

Yes. Blood tests for other cancer types, and cancer stages, are in development at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute.

Development of these types of tests requires significant funding and we need your help!

With your support our researchers will be able to develop more liquid biopsy tests sooner. Right now they are working on one for breast cancer. Will you donate today?