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NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is exploring the landscape of liquid biopsy technologies for screening and early detection of cancer. They are seeking to understand the current state of the art, particularly with regard to specificity and sensitivity. Non-invasive solutions that are already commercially available or will be commercially available within 5 years are of highest interest.


Space radiation may place astronauts at an increased lifetime risk for cancer, especially due to exposures from galactic cosmic rays or solar particle events. Astronauts are exposed to ionizing radiation with effective doses in the range from 50 to 2,000 mSv, or roughly 150 to 6,000 chest x-rays. Technologies that allow NASA to routinely screen astronauts for cancer will increase the likelihood of effective treatment at early stages. For these frequent screening processes, non-invasive sampling and detection will be crucial. Therefore, NASA is seeking to understand the existing and emerging landscape of liquid biopsy technologies for early-stage cancer detection.


  • Sample acquisition should not require surgical or needle biopsy
    • Non-invasive biofluids such as urine, saliva, feces, skin swabs, etc. are of high interest
    • Minimally invasive biofluid samples such as blood and cerebro-spinal fluid are also of interest
    • Other non-invasive detection technologies, such as imaging, are in scope
  • Must have high sensitivity to cancer-indicating biomarkers (e.g. circulating tumor cells (CTCs), cell-free nucleic acids (cfNA), exosomes, etc.)
  • Cancers of all tissues of origin for humans are in scope
    • Platform technologies that are able to work across multiple types of cancer are of high interest
  • Technologies should be commercially available now or within 5 years
    • Includes FDA approved technologies, FDA investigational technologies, technologies and approaches in human clinical trials, and technologies being developed for translation to humans
  • Must have low false negative rates

Field of Use and Intended Applications

Screening and early cancer detection for astronauts

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