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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £30-35 million a year

Blood or urine tests could detect brain tumours

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) scientists are developing tests that can detect the presence of glioma in patient urine or blood plasma.

It is the first time signs of glioma have been detected using urine.

Although the research is in its early stage, the results published in EMBO Molecular Medicine are described as “very promising”. If future trials are successful, the tests could be used by GPs to monitor patients at high risk of brain tumours.

When patients undergo surgery to remove a brain tumour, the likelihood of it returning can be high. Currently, patients are monitored with regular MRI scans, followed by a biopsy if there is evidence of cancer. To make monitoring easier, scientists are looking for ways to detect cancer in blood, urine or other fluids – called liquid biopsies.

The researchers suggest that these biopsies could be used between MRI scans and could ultimately be able to detect a returning brain tumour earlier. The next stage of this research will see the tests compared against MRI scans in a trial with patients who are in remission to see if they can detect returning tumours at the same time or earlier than the MRI. If proven to detect brain tumours earlier than an MRI, then the researchers will look at how tests can be adapted so they could be offered in the clinic, which could be within the next 10 years.

We welcome this news that a simple blood or urine test could help not only detect a returning brain tumour in its earliest stages, but also reduce ‘scanxiety’ in patients.

This builds on the use of liquid biopsies to improve patient outcomes and ties into the recent 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 invasive surgery to help determine the best course of treatment for patients with meningioma. Read more here.

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