The isolation and analysis of circulating cell-free tumor DNA in plasma is a powerful tool with considerable potential to improve clinical outcomes across multiple cancer types, including NSCLC. Assays of this nature that use blood as opposed to tumor samples are frequently referred to as liquid biopsies. An increasing number of innovative platforms have been recently developed that improve not only the fidelity of the molecular analysis but also the number of tests performed on a single specimen. Circulating tumor DNA assays for detection of both EGFR sensitizing and resistance mutations have already entered clinical practice and many other molecular tests - such as detection of resistance mutations for Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) receptor tyrosine kinase rearrangements - are likely to do so in the near future. Due to an abundance of new evidence, an appraisal was warranted to review strengths and weaknesses, to describe what is already in clinical practice and what has yet to be implemented, and to highlight areas in need of further investigation. A multidisciplinary panel of experts in the field of thoracic oncology with interest and expertise in liquid biopsy and molecular pathology was convened by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer to evaluate current available evidence with the aim of producing a set of recommendations for the use of liquid biopsy for molecular analysis in guiding the clinical management of advanced NSCLC patients as well as identifying unmet needs. In summary, the panel concluded that liquid biopsy approaches have significant potential to improve patient care, and immediate implementation in the clinic is justified in a number of therapeutic settings relevant to NSCLC.
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