National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £35 million a year
Blood test to detect brain metastases
According to an article in European Pharmaceutical Review, cancer researchers are not far from creating a blood test that can determine breast cancer patients who are at bigger risk of developing brain metastasis.
A proof-of-concept study led by Dr Dario Marchetti at the Houston Methodist Research Institute aims to broaden the study patient population and use the gathered information to develop two kinds of non-invasive liquid biopsies: a screening method to predict metastasis to the brain before the disease can be detected by standard diagnostic methods e.g. MRI; and a second kind to observe progression and response to treatment in actual time.
The research team discovered a distinct group of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) related to brain metastasis which brings them closer to comprehending how the roots of metastatic disease can advance to the brain.
“Our research confirmed that CTCs in breast cancer brain metastases are distinct from other circulating tumour cells. Moreover, unlocking the mystery of how these seeds of metastatic disease survive and thrive over a period of years, sometimes decades, is an enigma in cancer,” said Dr Marchetti. “Now we can take this information and develop a more sensitive screening tool to detect metastatic cancer in the blood, possibly even before metastasis is radiologically detectable by MRI.”
The study could significantly improve life expectancy and treatment options for cancer patients as the current standard MRI diagnosis usually detects breast cancer brain metastasis at a later stage where fewer treatment options are available and effective.