Brain cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer death in the US population. Current methods can diagnose the cancer within 2 to 3 days, but researchers say they have created a new technique in which the disease could be diagnosed in just half an hour.
Brain cancer is defined as one or more cancerous tumors within the brain or central spine canal. The cancer can develop at any age, but the risk increases as a person gets older.
According to the National Cancer Institute, this year will see 23,130 new brain cancer diagnoses in the US, with 14,080 deaths from the condition.
Current diagnostic techniques for the disease involve a series of scans, including computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG).
If a tumor is suspected after these scans, the patient will then undergo a biopsy - the surgical removal of a small piece of tissue from the tumor. This requires the patient to stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days.
But investigators from the University of Central Lancashire in the UK say their new technique could "transform" the diagnosis of patients with brain tumors, eliminating the need for prolonged hospital stays and invasive tests.
To reach their findings, published in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, the researchers analyzed blood samples that had been donated by 49 brain cancer patients, alongside 25 patients without the cancer.
Using a combination of infrared lighting and protein biomarkers, the investigators were able to diagnose the presence of glioma serum - a marker of the primary brain tumor.
When the researchers transmitted infrared light directly at the serum, the light had the ability to detect its molecular vibration, meaning the researchers could determine whether the gliomas may be cancerous or not.
The researchers say this test can achieve a diagnosis within 30 minutes.
New technique 'a milestone' in brain cancer diagnosis
Dr. Matthew Baker, a study author from the School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences at the University of Lancashire, says their research provides a non-invasive solution for the detection of brain cancer in its early stages.
He notes that the technique also supports medical decision-making and may help medical professionals to improve patient outcomes, adding:
"The result we have achieved is a milestone and has the ability to revolutionize the clinical environment by providing objective measures for diagnoses, enabling increased efficiency and economic impact upon the health services.
We hope this will also help to relieve some of the emotional stress patients experience waiting for test results."
Peter Abel, another study author from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Lancashire, says the research team believes the new technique could eventually be carried out by doctors as part of regular health screenings.Dr. Baker told Medical News Today:
"The opportunity for cheap, quick and relatively non-invasive screening tests are massive. I would like there to be a tick box on the form that is filled to order blood tests, such as cholesterol or lipids, when patients visit their doctor, or upon a medical."
The investigators note that Lancaster University in the UK and the University of Jena in Germany also tested the technique and confirmed similar results when conducting tests on human tissue samples.
Dr. Baker talked about the team's plans to follow-up this research:
"The next steps are to further our serum database and increase our understanding of the reasons for diagnosis, as well as push this into the clinic with our collaborators.
I would like to place a system within a hospital and run it alongside the current clinical diagnosis and then aim for clinical trials in the future."
Medical News Today recently reported on a study detailing a new vaccine that promises longer survival for brain tumor patients.