Brain tumors are usually confirmed by biopsying a sample of tissue. But a new test could potentially be used to help doctors diagnose brain tumors and monitor their progress without surgery. A pilot study on the technique is available in the online edition of Neuro-Oncology.
In the study, researchers tested patients' spinal fluid for biological markers called microRNAs, small molecules that regulate gene expression. Tumors come with their own, unique microRNAs. The researchers looked at these cancer-associated microRNAs in 118 patents diagnosed with brain tumors. By measuring the levels of just seven markers, they were able to accurately recognize glioblastoma and metastatic brain cancer.
Lead author Anna Krichesvsky, PhD, of the Center of Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, commented in a press release:
"We are excited about the potential that this test has to ease the process of detecting and monitoring brain tumors," said Krichevsky. "The test needs to be further developed before it is used in a clinical setting, but I expect it could be particularly valuable for patients who are not surgical candidates due to the tumor's size or location, or due to an underlying medical condition."
The technique can also monitor tumors during treatment. Krichesvsky is patenting the test and will do more studies to evaluate its effectiveness.