Urine test may detect brain tumor biomarkers

Vector, the blog for Children's Hospital Boston, tells us about Edward Smith, director of pediatric cerebrovascular surgery, who is on a quest to find easily detectable biomarkers to diagnose and assess a brain tumor's status. His solution is very simple: a urine test.

Next to trauma, brain tumors are the leading cause of death among children. "Right now, every three months--when we know they have a tumor--we put kids under anesthesia, place them in a freezing cold scanner and take a study for thousands of dollars to see if there's a growth there," explains Smith. So, his search for an easier, less-expensive method brought him to Marsha Moses, director of the vascular biology program. Moses has pioneered the use of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) as urine biomarkers for breast and ovarian cancer.

Together, Smith and Moses were confronted with the case of an 8-year-old girl who came in with gastrointestinal complaints, but whose MMPs were curiously high. A month later, she developed vision problems and severe headaches. Fortunately, neurosurgeons were able to remove her tumor, but, Smith says, had they acted on the biomarker a month earlier, it might have prevented her vision problems and headaches.

So, with that incident in mind, Smith's team is planning to follow patients with brain tumors for two or three years and measure the progress against the MMP biomarkers--maybe even developing them with the ability to distinguish between different types of brain tumors.

- read the blog post on Vector