Researchers suggest that a test similar to the one used to detect COVID could be used to detect brain tumors and warn people with aggressive, recurrent cancer if the disease relapses.
Scientists are developing a simple test to detect brain tumors at home. The test is expected to quickly alert people with aggressive, recurrent brain tumors if the tumor reoccurs.
The test was developed for glioblastoma, a type of aggressive brain tumor that affects around 2,200 people a year in the UK and reoccurs in around 75 per cent of cases.
People currently have to wait an average of three to six months between MRI scans to see if a tumor has grown back. Therefore, a test they can perform several times a week will reduce anxiety and the tumor can be detected much more quickly in cases where surgery is still possible or a treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy will give better results.
The test, which is similar to the COVID test, takes a drop of blood instead of taking a nasal swab and provides results within seconds.
The test looks for a molecule called protoporphyrin IX, the central component of red blood cells. Some experts believe that brain tumor cells, unlike normal cells, have abandoned the important function of helping the body produce red blood cells. Therefore, when someone’s brain tumor reoccurs, there may be more protoporphyrin IX in the body that is not used by red blood cells.
The test is expected to be used on blood samples taken from 60 people with and without brain tumors in the next few months and to see how well it works.
Professor Philippe Wilson, from Nottingham Trent University, who was part of the team that produced the test, said: “This test will be life-saving for people who have aggressive brain tumours, who know that the chance of the tumor coming back is extremely high, so they face a ticking time bomb. “Right now someone can have an MRI scan, then their tumor starts coming back the next day and they don’t know it until the next scan.”