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Liquid Biopsies Interest Group

SIG logo in the form of a test tube

The Liquid Biopsies (LB) Scientific Interest Group (SIG) welcomes scientists engaged or interested in any aspects of liquid biopsy research including cell free nucleic acids, proteins, circulating tumor cells and immune cells.

The aims of the Liquid Biopsies Interest Group are to: (1) foster scientific exchange; (2) communication of research (3); working towards establishing standard practices for circulating nucleic acids studies; (4) sharing and optimization of techniques.

Although cell free DNA was discovered in human plasma by scientists in the 1940s, only recently has interest in circulating nucleic acids risen in prominence. The most commonly-studied species, circulating cell-free DNA, has a very short half-life and is typically associated with the turnover of normal or diseased tissues. However, studies of cell-free nucleic acids also extend to the repertoire of circulating mitochondrial DNA, DNA of fetal or placental origin, methylated DNA, damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), aggregates of DNA particulates, cancer-associated circulating tumor DNA, and stable, circulating RNAs. 

In September 2018, NIEHS Inflammation Faculty hosted a workshop focused on Circulating Cell-Free DNA. With almost 100 registered attendees, the focus of this workshop was to identify methods used in clinical practice that would be relevant to toxicology studies. Representation from NIH intramural labs included investigators from NHGRI, NCI, NHLBI and NIEHS. Scientific focus areas of circulating nucleic acids (CNA) research and biomarker studies discussed included: (a) identifying mechanisms of recurrence in prostate cancer; (b) earlier screening of prenatal genomic abnormalities; (c) understanding tissue damage associated with sickle cell crises; (d) monitoring stress; (e) tissue-specific exposures to environmental toxins in adults and the unborn; (f) guiding treatment of metastatic tumors; and (g) following patients diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus. Key areas of discussion included limitations of detection, controlling error rates in analysis, and interpretation of results with appropriate biological context.

In 2022, the SIG broadened its scope by including research on circulating tumor cells (CTCs). The presence of CTCs was first described in 1869 by the Australian physician Thomas Ashworth. However, only the development of novel, highly sensitive technologies over the past two decades allowed their study and launched their increasing importance for cancer research and diagnostics in the clinic. The LB-SIG provides a networking platform for CTC researchers across NIH and beyond.

Steering Committees 

  1. Research Committee - Chairs: Adam Sowalsky, Ph.D., NCI (; Aadel Chaudhuri, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis (; and Brendan Miller, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins (, Esta Sterneck, Ph.D., NCI (
    A variety of presentations directed towards applicable topics to include relevant journal articles, methods debate, data club (work in progress), or bioinformatics/computational discussions. Any member of the SIG is welcome to present. Membership is open to senior staff and trainees/fellows, both within NIH and at academic institutions. To request an opportunity to present in the seminar series, please send requests along with an abstract to the chair.
  2. Standards and Technology Committee – Chair: Kevin Gerrish, Ph.D., NIEHS (
    The committee continuously reviews literature from academic and commercial groups that report advances in cell free nucleic acid and liquid biopsy technology to identify standards and best practices for the execution and analysis of cell free nucleic acids research
  3. Communications and Membership – Chair: Anna Baj, B.S., NCI (
    The communication and membership committee identifies research groups that conduct research involving cell free nucleic acids, circulating tumor cells, or other components of liquid biopsies, and invites them to join the CNA/Liquid Biopsies SIG. 

Members’ Directory:
Members are encouraged to join and consult this directory for networking opportunities.

Mailing List

To join the Liquid Biopsies Interest Group mailing list, please visit the Liquid Biopsies Interest Group Listserv home page, then click the “Subscribe or Unsubscribe” link in the right sidebar.


The page was last updated on Thursday, June 23, 2022 - 5:06pm