Imperial College London researchers have developed a blood test that could offer an alternative method for the diagnosis of high-grade brain cancer. The technique has the potential to improve survival time for patients with glial tumours, including the most common and aggressive type, glioblastoma (GBM), from invasive and highly-risky surgeries. This discovery is demonstration of progress and some hope for the brain cancer community. It offers a non-invasive and patient-friendly alternative for early detection.
Clinical Validation at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence
The success of this blood test has been demonstrated through a clinical validation study conducted at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence, a collaborative effort between Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Published recently in the International Journal of Cancer, the study focused on patients with brain cancer, marking a significant milestone in the quest for advanced diagnostic tools.
The TriNetra-Glio Blood Test: Named TriNetra-Glio, operates by isolating circulating tumour cells that have detached from the tumour and entered the bloodstream. The isolated cells are then stained for identification under a microscope, providing a diagnostic liquid biopsy. Unlike traditional tests, TriNetra-Glio offers a risk-free and non-invasive method for detecting intact circulating tumour cells with the same cellular detail as an actual tissue sample.
Landscape and Limitations
While this new method of diagnosis may first appear to be a breakthrough in care, we need to also consider the wider picture and temper our expectations as research only progresses as a whole.
The clear benefits of this work include prompt diagnosis which will allow patients and their families to see improved wait times for diagnosis, lifting the burden of expediency from the clinical teams and allowing for a greater focus on wellbeing and next steps. Additionally, the less invasive nature of this option when compared to surgical biopsy allows for a more comfortable and less anxiety-inducing process across the board for those diagnosed.
Some limitations are revealed when considering these tests in the context of the wider standard of care. We know that surgery (resection) is the most effective treatment we have right now, and so these blood test diagnoses can’t be considered a replacement or a completely superior next step in care. When considering alternative treatments, we also must consider how pivotal it is to have frozen tissue as a result of a biopsy in order to be eligible for treatments such as immunotherapy (like DCVax) or other forms of molecular testing.
Tissue samples secured through biopsy and resection also pave the way for wider research. Tissue is required by scientists who are seeking to understand brain tumours.
A final consideration is the human element of spotting symptoms in the first place. Both options are limited by our ability to understand how brain tumours first present in patients.
“This alternative form of diagnosis serves as a puzzle piece in the larger picture of cancer care, but we should be mindful that it must compliment surgery and resection is still our best available treatment in the current landscape.” – Adam Thomson, Patient Involvement Officer, brainstrust
Potential Impact on Brain Tumour Patients
The test holds the promise of more prompt diagnosis, enabling tailored treatments based on biopsy results, potentially increasing survival rates. Moreover, it has the potential to eliminate the need for sometimes risky surgical biopsies, which pose significant dangers, particularly for those with underlying health conditions.
Funded by Datar Cancer Genetics, this research has already captured the attention of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The hope is now for a larger-scale study in the UK, with potential implementation within the next two years for patients with suspected high-grade tumours. The potential impact on reducing delays in diagnosis and treatment is particularly crucial, given the aggressive nature of brain tumours.
Imperial College London’s findings in developing a blood test for brain cancer detection marks a significant leap forward in the quest for improved diagnostics and treatments. The potential to spare patients from risky surgeries and offer a non-invasive alternative is a promising development for the brain cancer community. As we await further studies and potential regulatory approvals, the hope is that this innovation will soon become an integral part of brain cancer diagnosis, offering timely interventions and improved outcomes for those facing this devastating disease.
To read the published paper, click here.
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If you or someone you love is living with a brain tumour and have any questions around this latest news, or want to access support, give us a call on 01983 292 405 or email email@example.com. You can also visit our little brainstrust website which features support for children affected by brain tumour.