Nucleic Acid Extraction for Cancer Research

Nucleic Acid Extraction for Cancer Research

Nucleic Acids carry cell information and make up genetic material which makes them valuable chemical compounds in cancer research and treatment. Nucleic acid based testing is less invasive and time efficient.

Current approaches for cancer detection and characterization are based on radiological procedures coupled with tissue biopsies, despite relevant limitations in terms of overall accuracy and feasibility, including relevant patients’ discomfort. Liquid biopsies enable the minimally invasive collection and analysis of circulating biomarkers released from cancer cells and stroma, representing therefore a promising candidate for the substitution or integration in the current standard of care.[3]

The detection of circulating cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) in plasma either in the form of DNA or RNA yields serious potential for clinical purposes in patients affected by cancer. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), namely the fraction of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in neoplastic patients derived from apoptosis and necrosis of tumor cells, or from processes of active release from neoplastic cells or extracellular vesicles, represents one of the most promising biomarkers, with serious potential for effective transition into clinical practice [5]. Other types of cfNAs include RNA-based biomarkers such as microRNA (miRNA) and non-coding RNA (ncRNA) [1]. As access to body fluids is less invasive, easier, faster and cheaper than performing a tissue/tumor biopsy, the analysis of circulating biomarkers obtained through liquid biopsies is gaining consideration for an effective transition to clinical practice. [3]

An effective implementation of current workflows for cancer diagnosis and characterization by the assessment of cfNAs in the panorama of liquid biopsies would imply substantial progress toward a minimally invasive and personalized monitoring of neoplastic patients, possibly capturing the complex heterogeneity of the cancer mutational and transcriptional profile, without performing invasive procedures such as traditional tissue biopsies. [3]

In recent years, many laboratories have been implementing the use of magnetic beads-based extraction, for both its cost-effectiveness and rapidity of execution. [3]

Additionally to testing capabilities, nucleic acids provide a baseline for generating treatment for cancer patients with the emerging use and research of nucleic acid therapeutics.

Therapeutic nucleic acids (TNAs) are nucleic acids themselves or closely related compounds used to treat disease. Although various types of TNAs exist, they share a common mechanism of action that is mediated by sequence‐specific recognition of endogenous nucleic acids through Watson–Crick base pairing. [2]

Nucleic acid therapeutics have shown unprecedented potential for a wide variety of diseases. Recent advancements in the fields of nucleic acid therapeutics and immuno-oncology have garnered broad interest in applying nucleic acid therapeutics for cancer immunotherapy. Nucleic acid therapeutics have versatile functionalities. [6]

The capabilities of nucleic acids are at the brim of multitude of discoveries with emerging possibilities in early cancer detection, therapy and more.

Magnetic Beads


  1. Anfossi, S., Babayan, A., Pantel, K., Calin, G.A. (2018). Clinical Utility of Circulating Non-Coding RNAs—An Update. Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology. 15, 541–563. DOI:
  2. Cavagnari, BM. (2011). Gene therapy: nucleic acids as drugs. Action, mechanisms and delivery into the cell. Arch Argentinos de Pediatria, 109(3). 237–244. DOI:
  3. Cirmena, G., Dameri, M., Ravera, F., Fregatti, P., Ballestrero, A., Zoppoli, G. (2021). Assessment of Circulating Nucleic Acids in Cancer: From Current Status to Future Perspectives and Potential Clinical Applications. Cancers, 13(14), 3460.DOI:
  4. Opalinska, J.,-B., Gewirtz, A.,M. (2002). Nucleic-acid Therapeutics: Basic Principles and Recent Applications. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 1, 503-514. DOI:
  5. Schwarzenbach, H.,Hoon, D.S.B., Pantel, K. (2011). Cell-Free Nucleic Acids as Biomarkers in Cancer Patients. Nat. Rev. Cancer, 11, 426–437. DOI:
  6. Zhou, S., Chen, W., Cole, J., Zhu, G. (2020). Delivery of Nucleic Acid Therapeutics for Cancer Immunotherapy. Medicine in Drug Discovery. 6. 100023. DOI:

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