Blood tests can identify brain tumors, study suggests

Blood tests can serve as an accurate, less-invasive method for brain tumor diagnostics and categorization, according to a study published June 22 in Nature Medicine.

A team at Toronto-based Princess Margaret Cancer Centre used a DNA methylation-based liquid biopsy approach and machine learning algorithms to develop a sensitive blood test to find and classify brain tumors. The researchers detected the tumor origin and type by comparing patient tumor samples with analysis of cell-free DNA in plasma from 221 patients.

Traditional diagnostic techniques identify the tumor type by molecular information that requires invasive surgery to secure tissue samples, a risky and anxiety-inducing procedure for patients.

"Molecular characterization of tumours by profiling epigenetic alterations in addition to genetic mutations gives us a more comprehensive understanding of the altered features of a tumour, and opens the possibilities for more specific, sensitive, and tumour agnostic tests," Daniel De Carvalho, PhD, one of the study's lead researchers, said in a news release.

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