Test could diagnose brain tumors without surgery

Diagnosing and monitoring brain tumors aren't easy processes. Surgery is often necessary, as there is no test that can detect and monitor tumors accurately. But a team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston thinks it has stumbled upon a game-changing way to eliminate the need for surgery in suspected brain tumor patients.

In a pilot study involving 118 patients with different types of brain tumors, the team demonstrated that microRNA profiling of cerebrospinal fluid can be used to determine the presence of glioblastoma, the most common and lethal type of brain tumor. The same process can be used to detect cancer that started in other parts of the body and spread to the brain.

Our sister publication, FierceBiomarkers, also profiled microRNAs this week. They are short stretches of genetic material that circulate in the blood, and they are increasingly being investigated as biomarkers, from food allergy, to heart disease, to cancer.

"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," explained team leader Anna Krichevsky about the patent-pending test.

Study results are published in the online edition of Neuro-Oncology. According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be just under 23,000 new cases of brain and and other nervous system cancers diagnosed in the U.S. this year.

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- check out the abstract