Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson is a clinician-scientist. She obtained her medical degree from the University of Melbourne in 1998, and trained as a medical oncologist in Melbourne, Australia. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. Following postdoctoral studies at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, she returned to Melbourne in 2014 to head the Molecular Biomarkers and Translational Genomics Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Her current research interests are focused on the development of noninvasive blood-based biomarkers ("liquid biopsies") for clinical application, including early detection, risk stratification and disease monitoring in cancer management.
Liquid Biopsies: Monitoring the Cancer Genome in Blood
Cell-free circulating DNA containing tumor-specific sequences can be identified in the plasma of cancer patients, providing a liquid biopsy alternative to tissue biopsies for monitoring cancer genetic changes over time. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis can allow real-time monitoring of tumor dynamics and treatment response from a simple blood test that is safe, reliable and easy to perform at regular intervals during therapy. Serial analysis of ctDNA provides a unique opportunity to study the evolving genomic landscape of a cancer during therapy, identify the early emergence of treatment resistance and guide targeted therapeutic decisions. The use of ctDNA for molecular disease monitoring has enormous potential to facilitate precision medicine and optimize cancer management across a range of malignancies. A summary of current approaches for ctDNA analysis will be presented, together with an overview of clinical applications for the use of liquid biopsies in cancer management.