The TriNetra-Glio blood test identifies cancerous cells in the blood and has successfully identified a range of brain tumours.
Though most brain cancer diagnoses occur among an older age group, the disease also kills more people under 40 than any other cancer.
It is notoriously difficult to diagnose, particularly when the tumour is ‘inaccessible’ – unable to be diagnosed through biopsy.
However, a new blood test that has successfully identified a range of tumours will hopefully lead to earlier diagnoses and greater survival rates.
Brain tumours – difficult to diagnose
There are two main types of brain tumour: benign and malignant. Benign tumours grow slowly and are less likely to recur after treatment. Malignant tumours, on the other hand, have a 24%-35% recurrence rate.
Symptoms range from the relatively mild – like headaches and nausea – to the severe, including seizures, vision or speech problems, and even paralysis in extreme cases.
More than 12,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumours each year in the UK, with the majority aged between 85 and 89.
Treatment depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tumour, and the overall health and fitness of the patient. Treatment options include steroids, surgery, and the common cancer treatments, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
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The TriNetra-Glio blood test – non-invasive and inexpensive
The TriNetra-Glio blood test works by targeting glial cells that have broken free from the tumour and entered the bloodstream. The cells are then stained, making them easily identifiable under a microscope.
Research carried out at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence suggests the test could diagnose a range of brain tumours, including astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, and glioblastoma, the most common among adults in the UK.
Dr Nelofer Syed of the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence described the blood test as a “non-invasive, inexpensive method for the early detection of brain tumours”, which is “critical for improvements in patient care”.
The future – what does this mean for brain tumour treatment?
Dr Syed admitted there “is still some way to go” but maintained that the blood test will benefit those for whom a brain biopsy is not possible.
Meanwhile, Brain Tumour Research CEO, Dan Knowles, lauded the “groundbreaking research” that would “lead to earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes for brain tumour patients”.
Dr Syed’s colleague, Dr Kevin O’Neill, agreed: “This could help speed up diagnosis, enabling surgeons to apply tailored treatments […] to increase patients’ chances of survival. I’m very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this study, especially the patients involved”.
Further research will take place to validate the results. If the research proves successful, the test could be available to patients within two years.