Study Shows Potential to Develop Brain Tumor Liquid Biopsies

Findings say only 14% of brain tumor patients survive through a decade with the disease. In the UK alone, records also say over 11,400 cases of brain tumors get diagnosed every year.

However, the take is that all types of cancer can easily be managed with early detection.

That’s what scientists are seeking to achieve in a study they say might pave the way to the development of highly effective brain tumor liquid biopsies. The approach involves detecting cancer DNA from the fluids collected around the brain and spine.

Why Liquid Biopsies


In definition biopsies are samples taken from patients, which mostly involve body fluids such as blood and urine. Nonetheless, relevant body tissues can also work. After which, tests are then carried on these samples to help detect the presence of tumor cells in the body.

Now, the reason liquid biopsy gets preferred is that it is a lesser invasive option for monitoring disease, unlike tumor biopsies which involve using cut body tissues. In fact, this is more beneficial for brain tumor diagnosis, because lesser risks and challenges are involved when collecting the samples for testing. In precise, the hope is that this will allow earlier detection of tumors, thereby increasing the rate of survival in patients.

The Success


Already, using this approach, researchers working with the Cancer Research UK at the Cambridge Institute say they have managed to detect a type of tumor known as glioma, in 39% of 13 patients who partook in the study as volunteers.

They did that by conducting tests on their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a special fluid that bathes the neural system, mostly the brain and spinal cord. A copy of this report also appears in the current issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine.

In the work the team used a widely available, cheap technique, what they term as “shallow whole-genome sequencing” – to look for large genetic changes in the quest to detect tumor DNA. Pointing out that this increases the detection rate for brain tumor DNA. It’s also the very first-time science has been able to identify tumor DNA in CSF from a simple focus on the size of DNA fragments – which in appearance are said to be shorter than healthy cells.

Will this Redefine the Future of Brain Tumor Detection?

According to Dr. Florent Mouliere the lead researcher and co-first author of the work at CR –UK, the answer is yes.

“Liquid biopsies, in general, have been very promising on many cancer types, however, on brain tumor — relying on blood alone has been a limiting factor, owing to the fact that it has very low amounts of tumor DNA. But with the new target for liquid and technique, this will change. Suspecting patients can now have their cerebrospinal fluid analyzed for tumor DNA without having to endure risky invasions,” Mouliere said.

Going forward, the researchers plan to use the same method to monitor patient progress as they receive treatment. Something they say would open more opportunities to tailored or customized therapies.

This in other words also means doctors would be able to control the possibilities of side effect during treatment. As well as lower the cost of managing brain tumors (which currently floats in millions of pounds in the UK alone), to a huge extent.