You may remember meeting Chris O’Brien Lifehouse director of neurosurgery Dr Brindha Shivalingam in previous issues of OpenHouse. Along with researchers from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney, she has developed a blood test to detect aggressive brain tumours using tiny, virus-sized nanoparticles known as exosomes.
Exosomes are released in large numbers by cancer cells. The researchers detected a signature in exosomes that can distinguish people with and without glioblastoma (an aggressive type of brain tumour) with near 100 per cent accuracy. The test is showing potential for grading and sub-typing of glioma, including the determination of mutational states.
Glioblastoma is the most lethal type of brain tumour and monitoring how patients respond to treatment can be challenging. The ability to diagnose this type of cancer early on and understand the type and how fast it is growing will help doctors make more effective treatment decisions.
There are around 1,600 Australians diagnosed with brain cancer every year. MRI scans don’t always provide the information needed to make finely-tuned decisions like whether or not a patient should have surgery. Dr Shivalingam says, “To be able to detect, diagnose and monitor brain cancers by a blood test will revolutionise how we manage brain cancer treatment and will have a big impact on the quality-of- life and survival of our patients.”
More research is required before the test is available and we are excited by this positive step towards more personalised medicine.