Research highlight

Cancer: Blood test to help identify brain cancer

Nature Communications

October 9, 2019

The further development of a blood test that may be able to help identify people with brain cancer is reported in Nature Communications. The study presents an inexpensive slide that can be used to analyse multiple samples at the same time, and has been validated in a preliminary clinical study. The paper notes that system proposed is not an absolute diagnosis, but could be used as a triage tool.

Patients with brain cancer frequently present with non-specific symptoms and the final cancer diagnosis can be time consuming. A previous test used a classical approach to a system called Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform infrared spectroscopy to analyse blood samples to predict whether patients may have brain cancer, but that test required the use of expensive materials such as diamond.

Matthew Baker and colleagues have further developed this test to be used as a triage tool. By incorporating silicon wafers into the device they produced a cheaper system that can analyse multiple samples at one time. Using samples from a prospective cohort of 104 patients they find that the device can distinguish patients with brain cancer from healthy individuals correctly 87% of the time. These findings suggest that this approach may be useful to doctors in helping prioritize patients that require brain scans in order to diagnose tumours.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12527-5

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