Diagnostic brain tumor test could revolutionize care of patients

January 27, 2012
Brain-tumor patient Thomas Smith hugs Dr. Elizabeth Maher following a positive visitation. Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed what they believe to be the first clinical application of a new imaging technique to diagnose brain tumors. The unique test could preclude the need for surgery in patients whose tumors are located in areas of the brain too dangerous to biopsy.

This new (MRS) technique provides a of cancer based on imaging of a protein associated with a mutated gene found in 80 percent of low- and intermediate-grade gliomas. Presence of the mutation also means a better prognosis.

"To our knowledge, this is the only direct metabolic consequence of a genetic mutation in a cancer cell that can be identified through noninvasive imaging," said Dr. Elizabeth Maher, associate professor of internal medicine and neurology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, available online in Nature Medicine. "This is a major breakthrough for brain tumor patients."

UT Southwestern researchers developed the test by modifying the settings of a (MRI) scanner to track the protein's levels. The data acquisition and analysis procedure was developed by study lead author Dr. Changho Choi, associate professor of the Advanced Imaging Research Center (AIRC) and radiology. Previous research linked high levels of this protein to the mutation, and UT Southwestern researchers already had been working on MRS of gliomas to find tumor biomarkers.

"Our next step is to make this testing procedure widely available as part of routine MRIs for . It doesn't require any injections or special equipment," said Dr. Maher, medical director of UT Southwestern's neuro-oncology program.

To substantiate the test as a diagnostic tool, biopsy samples from 30 glioma patients enrolled in the UT Southwestern clinical trial were analyzed; half had the mutation and expected high levels of the protein. MRS imaging of these patients had been done before surgery and predicted, with 100 percent accuracy, which patients had the mutation.

For Thomas Smith of Grand Prairie, the test helped determine the best time to begin chemotherapy. When an MRS scan showed a sharp rise in the 25-year-old's protein levels, this indicated to his health care team that his tumor was moving from dormancy to rapid growth.

"We treated him with chemotherapy and his protein levels came down," Dr. Maher said.

Before participating in the study, Mr. Smith had tumor removal surgery in 2007. Because part of the could not be safely removed, however, he continued to suffer seizures and had other neurological problems. Since chemotherapy, his symptoms have diminished.

"I did six rounds of chemo, every six weeks," Mr. Smith said. "My seizures stopped and all my symptoms improved. I am only on anti-seizure medication now."

Explore further: Research reveals that significantly more genetic mutations lead to colon cancer

Related Stories

Research reveals that significantly more genetic mutations lead to colon cancer

July 18, 2011
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center say there are at least 70 genetic mutations involved in the formation of colon cancer, far more than scientists previously thought.

Seeing what's inside a tumor

January 12, 2012
Gliomas, the most common types of brain tumor, are also among the deadliest cancers: Their mortality rate is nearly 100 percent, in part because there are very few treatments available. 

UT Southwestern program identifies families at high risk for colorectal cancer

September 1, 2011
UT Southwestern Medical Center has developed a new lifesaving genetic screening program for families at high risk of contracting colorectal cancer, a deadly yet highly preventable form of cancer.

Recommended for you

New findings explain how UV rays trigger skin cancer

October 18, 2017
Melanoma, a cancer of skin pigment cells called melanocytes, will strike an estimated 87,110 people in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A fraction of those melanomas come from ...

Drug yields high response rates for lung cancer patients with harsh mutation

October 18, 2017
A targeted therapy resurrected by the Moon Shots Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has produced unprecedented response rates among patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer that carries ...

Possible new immune therapy target in lung cancer

October 18, 2017
A study from Bern University Hospital in collaboration with the University of Bern shows that so-called perivascular-like cells from lung tumors behave abnormally. They not only inadequately support vascular structures, but ...

Many pelvic tumors in women may have common origin—fallopian tubes

October 17, 2017
Most—and possibly all—ovarian cancers start, not in ovaries, but instead in the fallopian tubes attached to them.

Researchers find novel mechanism of resistance to anti-cancer drugs

October 17, 2017
The targeted anti-cancer therapies cetuximab and panitumumab are mainstays of treatment for advanced colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, many patients have tumors ...

New bowel cancer drug target discovered

October 17, 2017
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered a new drug target for bowel cancer that is specific to tumour cells and therefore less toxic than conventional therapies.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.