Study shows potential to develop brain tumour liquid biopsies

November 6, 2018, Cancer Research UK

Scientists are making strides in developing liquid biopsies for brain tumours by detecting tumour DNA in the fluid from around the brain and spine.

Liquid biopsies are fluid samples from , for example from the blood or urine, which provide a less invasive way to monitor disease compared to tumour biopsies. A less intrusive test could be hugely beneficial for where collecting samples can be difficult and risky for patients.

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute analysed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)—which bathes the brain and spinal cord—in 13 patients with a type of brain tumour called a glioma. They detected tumour DNA in five (39%) of the patients and their findings are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Researchers used a cheap and widely available technique called shallow whole-genome sequencing to detect brain tumour DNA—they looked for large genetic changes, such as genes being duplicated or lost.

For the first time, the researchers identified tumour DNA in the CSF by looking at the size of the DNA fragments, which are shorter than those from healthy cells. This provides another way to detect brain tumour DNA, potentially increasing the detection rate.

In one patient, multiple tissue samples from their brain tumour were compared to their CSF. The genetic changes broadly matched, but the CSF contained changes that were missed in some of the tissue samples, suggesting that CSF samples could reflect the repertoire of genetic alterations found in brain tumours.

Dr. Florent Mouliere, co-first author, who conducted the work as a scientist at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: "Liquid biopsies are showing great promise for a number of cancer types, but tests for brain tumours have lagged behind due to the low levels of tumour DNA found in body fluids, in particular the blood.

"Our work shows that a cheap, easily available technique can be used to analyse tumour DNA in cerebrospinal fluid. In the future, we envisage that this technique could be used to identify patients who may benefit from further tests that could help monitor their disease, opening up more tailored treatment approaches."

Around 11,400 people are diagnosed with brain tumours in the UK every year and only 14% of people will survive their disease for a decade or more. That's why Cancer Research UK has made brain research one of its priorities, spending around £25 million over the next five years.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's Chief Clinician, said: "Survival for tumours remains low and there is an urgent need for research like this to identify strategies to better manage these complex diseases. This study lays important groundwork that brings the possibility of liquid biopsies for this hard to treat disease one step closer.

"The researchers will now need to expand this work into larger numbers of patients and find out whether this approach could have applications in the clinic, such as indicating whether a patient's treatment is working."

Explore further: Fluorescent marker can help guide surgeons to remove dangerous brain tumor cells more accurately

More information: Mouliere et al. Detection of copy number alterations in glioma using short cell-free DNA in cerebrospinal fluid. EMBO Molecular Medicine. DOI: 10.15252/emmm.201809323

Related Stories

Fluorescent marker can help guide surgeons to remove dangerous brain tumor cells more accurately

November 4, 2018
A chemical that highlights tumour cells has been used by surgeons to help spot and safely remove brain cancer in a trial presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference.

Urine liquid biopsies could help monitor bladder cancer treatment

September 26, 2018
Scientists have shown for the first time that immune cells in the urine of bladder cancer patients accurately reflect those in the tumour environment, according to research published today (Wednesday) in the Journal of Experimental ...

3D printing brain tumours to improve treatment

May 25, 2016
Scientists at a Heriot-Watt University plan to 3D print tumour-like constructs to better understand the biology of malignant brain tumours that kill around 5,000 people each year in the UK.

Brain tumors share common tricks to survive

October 25, 2017
Different types of brain tumours may use strikingly similar approaches to generate and use energy to survive in the brain, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE today.

CAR-T therapy works for some blood cancers, but can we make it work for brain tumours?

July 26, 2018
A powerful new anti-cancer therapy, called CAR-T, has shown great promise in treating blood cancers. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and the results have ...

Study analyzes mutations in cerebrospinal fluid in lung cancer with brain metastases

November 17, 2017
Researchers have explored the analysis of mutations in cerebrospinal fluid of lung cancer patients with brain metastases in a study presented at the ESMO Asia 2017 Congress. Tumour tissue from brain metastasis is difficult ...

Recommended for you

New dual-action cancer-killing virus

November 19, 2018
Scientists have equipped a virus that kills carcinoma cells with a protein so it can also target and kill adjacent cells that are tricked into shielding the cancer from the immune system.

From the ashes of a failed pain drug, a new therapeutic path emerges

November 16, 2018
In 2013, renowned Boston Children's Hospital pain researcher Clifford Woolf, MB, BCh, Ph.D., and chemist Kai Johnsson, Ph.D., his fellow co-founder at Quartet Medicine, believed they held the key to non-narcotic pain relief. ...

Repurposing FDA-approved drugs can help fight back breast cancer

November 16, 2018
Screening Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved compounds for their ability to stop cancer growth in the lab led to the finding that the drug flunarizine can slow down the growth of triple-negative breast cancer in ...

Traditional chemotherapy superior to new alternative for oropharyngeal cancers

November 16, 2018
A drug increasingly used in combination with radiotherapy to treat a type of cancer that forms in the tonsils or the base of the tongue is inferior to a previously favored option, according to a large, clinical trial led ...

New 'SLICE' tool can massively expand immune system's cancer-fighting repertoire

November 15, 2018
Immunotherapy can cure some cancers that until fairly recently were considered fatal. In addition to developing drugs that boost the immune system's cancer-fighting abilities, scientists are becoming expert at manipulating ...

Anti-malaria drugs have shown promise in treating cancer, and now researchers know why

November 15, 2018
Anti-malaria drugs known as chloroquines have been repurposed to treat cancer for decades, but until now no one knew exactly what the chloroquines were targeting when they attack a tumor. Now, researchers from the Abramson ...

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.