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Accurate Blood Test for Detecting Malignant Brain Tumors Could Help Patients Avoid Risky Surgery

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Feb 2024
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Image: Glioblastoma cells (Photo courtesy of Imperial College London)
Image: Glioblastoma cells (Photo courtesy of Imperial College London)

Globally, brain tumors comprise 85%-90% of all primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors, representing approximately 300,000 cases (1.6%) out of the total 19,300,000 annual cancer incidences. They also account for around 250,000 (2.5%) of the total 10,000,000 annual cancer-related deaths. Presently, the standard of care (SoC) for diagnosing intracranial space-occupying lesions (ICSOL) involves histopathological evaluation (HPE) of tumor tissue specimens, which are typically obtained through surgical excision or biopsy. However, surgical resection or biopsy can be particularly challenging for patients with poor performance status, comorbidities, or reluctance to undergo invasive procedures. These procedures carry well-documented risks, including pain, discomfort, intracranial hemorrhage, cerebral edema, infections, and even morbidity and mortality. Now, a simple blood test could help diagnose patients with brain tumors, saving them from undergoing invasive, highly risky surgery.

In a world-first, researchers at Imperial College London (London, UK) have proved a new technique for glial tumors including glioblastoma (GBM), the most commonly diagnosed type of high-grade brain tumor in adults. The TriNetra-Glio blood test works by isolating tumor cells that have detached from the tumor and are circulating in the blood. Once isolated, these cells are stained and can be examined under a microscope. This test could mark a significant advancement for patients with suspected high-grade gliomas, such as GBM, astrocytomas, and oligodendrogliomas, offering earlier tumor-type diagnosis, accelerated treatment, and potentially improved survival rates. Notably, it could also eliminate the need for surgical biopsies, which pose significant risks, especially for patients with pre-existing health conditions.

“A non-invasive, inexpensive method for the early detection of brain tumors is critical for improvements in patient care,” said Imperial's Dr Nelofer Syed (Department of Brain Sciences), who leads the Centre. “Through this technology, a diagnosis of inaccessible tumors can become possible through a risk-free and patient-friendly blood test. We believe this would be a world-first as there are currently no non-invasive or non-radiological tests for these types of tumors.”

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Imperial College London

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