The Practicality of the Use of Liquid Biopsy in Early Diagnosis and Treatment Monitoring of Oral Cancer in Resource-Limited Settings

An important driving force for precision and individualized medicine is the provision of tailor-made care for patients on an individual basis, in accordance with best evidence practice. Liquid biopsy(LB) has emerged as a critical tool for the early diagnosis of cancer and for treatment monitoring, but its clinical utility for oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) requires more research and validation. Hence, in this review, we have discussed the current applications of LB and the practicality of its routine use in Africa; the potential advantages of LB over the conventional “gold-standard” of tissue biopsy; and finally, practical considerations were discussed in three parts: pre-analytic, analytic processing, and the statistical quality and postprocessing phases. Although it is imperative to establish clinically validated and standardized working guidelines for various aspects of LB sample collection, processing, and analysis for optimal and reliable use, manpower and technological infrastructures may also be an important factor to consider for the routine clinical application of LB for OSCC. LB is poised as a non-invasive precision tool for personalized oral cancer medicine, particularly for OSCC in Africa, when fully embraced. The promising application of different LB approaches using various downstream analyses such as released circulating tumor cells (CTCs), cell free DNA (cfDNA), microRNA (miRNA), messenger RNA (mRNA), and salivary exosomes were discussed. A better understanding of the diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers of OSCC, using LB applications, would significantly reduce the cost, provide an opportunity for prompt detection and early treatment, and a method to adequately monitor the effectiveness of the therapy for OSCC, which typically presents with ominous prognosis.