Aggressive Brain Tumor Could Soon Be Diagnosed with a Simple Blood Test

A new study could soon see the development of a blood test to diagnose Glioblastoma.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of cancer that begins in the brain. It has an incidence of two to three per 100,000 adults per year and accounts for 52% of all primary brain tumors.


Glioblastoma consists of biologically aggressive tumors that present unique treatment challenges and typically results in death in the first 15 months after diagnosis. Now, new research by Sussex scientists could soon see the development of a blood test to diagnose it.

Novel biomarkers

A team of researchers has identified novel biomarkers within bodily fluids, which indicate the presence of the devastating cancer.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines biomarker as: “A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease." Cancer biomarkers indicate that the disease is present.

A team led by professor Georgios Giamas has identified particular biomarkers that are associated with extracellular vesicles. The find could lead to a simpler way to test for glioblastoma that could replace invasive and painful biopsies.

Testing for the tumor

 "At the moment, the outlook for glioblastoma patients is bleak. As the most aggressive type of brain tumor, survival rate is low," said Georgios Giamas, Professor of Cancer Cell Signalling in the School of Life Sciences.

"Our research provides more information about the markers which can signal the presence of glioblastoma - and the fact we've been able to identify ones that are associated with extracellular vesicles, suggests that there could be a way to use bodily fluids to test for the tumor in future." 

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Glioblastoma has three sub-types, each with its own biomarker. The more researchers find out about each one, the more accurate the future diagnoses will be.

"Glioblastoma subtyping is crucial for patient prognosis and personalized therapies. The fact that we can identify these molecular differences in extracellular vesicles is very exciting and will be of huge importance for discovering new biomarkers in the future," said Rosemary Lane, a Ph.D. student in Professor Giamas' lab and co-author of the study. 

Now, Giamas' team is looking to test and validate the presence of these new biomarkers in glioblastoma patients. "Clinical research in brain cancer is such a powerful tool to expand our knowledge in this terrible disease and improve our patient's outcome," said Marian Vintu, a neurosurgeon and co-author. 

The study was published in Nature's Communications Biology journal.