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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £35 million a year

Research breakthrough could spare patients surgery

This Brain Tumour Awareness Month, we are excited to bring news of a research breakthrough from our Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth which could see a simple blood test reduce, or in some cases replace, the need for intrusive surgery to help determine the best course of treatment for patients with meningioma.

Researchers have discovered a biomarker which helps to distinguish whether meningioma is grade I or grade II. The grading is significant because lower grade tumours can sometimes remain dormant for long periods, not requiring high risk surgery or harsh treatments. Tumours classified as grade II can progress to become cancerous and more aggressive treatment may be needed in order to try to control their spread.

Currently meningioma patients are usually put on watch and wait, undergo radiotherapy or have surgery in an attempt to remove the tumour. Between 70 and 85% of meningioma cases are lower grade so, if the blood test – or liquid biopsy – is carried out these patients may well be spared surgery or radiotherapy.

The team at Plymouth, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, has published its work on this novel biomarker known as the protein Fibulin-2 (FBLN2) in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Although FBLN2 has been linked to other types of cancer, the team believes that this study is the first to link the FBLN2 protein as a biomarker for meningioma.

The results build on the important work of the Plymouth centre to identify non-invasive biomarkers of different grades of meningioma tumours. More information on an earlier paper, “GATA-4, a potential novel therapeutic target for high-grade meningioma, regulates miR-497, a potential novel circulating biomarker for high-grade meningioma” can be found here

Using tumour samples, cancer cells grown in the laboratory and liquid biopsies from patients, the scientists were able to distinguish grade I from grade II tumours. In a smaller sub-study, the researchers have shown that levels of the biomarker could differentiate between good (slower growing) and bad (faster growing) grade tumours as defined by genetic make-up.

Prof Hanemann said: “In this study, we identified FBLN2 as a novel biomarker that can distinguish grade II from grade I meningiomas. Higher levels of this biomarker were found in tumour samples from grade II meningioma compared with the grade I form. We also showed that higher levels of FBLN2 can be detected in blood samples from grade II meningioma patients, compared to those from grade I meningioma patients. The identification of FBLN2 as a biomarker for meningioma has significant potential to improve the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and follow-up of meningiomas.”

It is hoped that this exciting breakthrough, which builds on the important work of the Plymouth Centre to identify non-invasive biomarkers of different grades of meningioma tumours, will contribute to the development of more personalised treatment options for patients with meningioma.

You can read the publication here: Fibulin-2: A Novel Biomarker for Differentiating Grade II from Grade I Meningiomas

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