Updated 30 October 2019

A blood test could speed up a brain cancer diagnosis - with 87% accuracy

A blood test that could accelerate the diagnosis of brain cancer has recently been developed by the University of Strathclyde.

A promising new blood test could accelerate the diagnosis of brain cancer with 87% accuracy. The technology uses infrared light to produce a "bio-signature" of a blood sample and applies artificial intelligence that looks for signs of cancer.

The research, published in Nature Communications involved the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow; Western General Hospital in Edinburg; and the University of Liverpool and the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool. 

Feasibility study

Patients with brain cancer frequently present with non-specific symptoms, and a final diagnosis can be time-consuming.

Researchers analysed samples from 104 patients  and found that the new blood test could distinguish patients with brain cancer from healthy individuals correctly 87% of the time.

Dr Matthew J. Baker, lead author and reader in Strathclyde's Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry and Chief Scientific Officer with ClinSpec Diagnostics said, "This is the first publication of data from our clinic feasibility study and it is the first demonstration that our blood tests work in the clinic. Earlier detection of brain tumours in the diagnostic pathway brings the potential to significantly improve patient quality of life and survival, whilst also providing savings to the health services."

According to Dr Holly Butler, Research and Development Director with ClinSpec Diagnostics, "The results presented are the beginning of a clinical roadmap of studies, that aim to bring the technology through regulatory approval, and ultimately to provide patients with rapid access to diagnosis and treatment."

More rapid diagnosis

Dr Paul Brennan, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh, another partner in the study, added "Diagnosing brain tumours is difficult, leading to delays and frustration for lots of patients. The problem is that symptoms of brain tumour are quite non-specific, such as headache, or memory problems. It can be difficult for doctors to tell which people are most likely to have a brain tumour.

"With this new test, we have shown that we can help doctors quickly identify which patients with these non-specific symptoms should be prioritised for urgent brain imaging. This means a more rapid diagnosis for people with a brain tumour, and quicker access to treatment," Brennan continued. 

The findings suggest that the approach may be useful for doctors when helping to prioritise patients who need brain scans in order to diagnose tumours. The proposed system does not offer an absolute diagnosis, but it could play a significant role the diagnostic process. 

Image credit: iStock


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