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Diagnosing Brain Cancer With Just a Small Blood Sample

According to the National Cancer Institute, death from brain tumors remains high, with a 36% five-year survival rate despite noteworthy progress. Scientists publishing in ACS Nano have constructed a biosensor that can aid physicians in accurately diagnosing brain cancer from a tiny blood sample.

Diagnosing Brain Cancer With Just a Small Blood Sample

Image Credit: sfam_photo/

Currently, precise diagnoses could improve brain cancer prognosis, but tissue biopsies are invasive and could miss important data about the tumor's biological composition. Imaging-based methods also do not provide enough resolution and sensitivity. 

To successfully cure brain cancer, physicians must confirm the existence of a malignant tumor and find if it formed there as a primary tumor or traveled to the brain as a secondary tumor from other body parts. Also, physicians have to be aware of tumor location in the organ.

Bo Tan and coworkers wished to develop a noninvasive test with a small amount of serum since no diagnostic technique at present can succeed in this feat without a painful spinal tap or surgery.

To create 3D nickel-nickel oxide nanolayers on a nickel chip, the scientists employed high-intensity laser beams. This approach led to an ultrasensitive biosensor that allowed them to sense tiny quantities of tumor-derived materials, like proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids, which entered into circulation through the blood-brain barrier.

The sensor spotted these components with an approach called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, producing molecular profiles, or fingerprints, for all samples. Then, the researchers examined these profiles using a DEEP neural network to identify the indication of a brain tumor, describe its type, and forecast its position inside the brain.

With the liquid biopsy platform, scientists can sense brain cancer from just 5 microliters of blood serum and could differentiate it from lung, breast, and colorectal cancer with 100% sensitivity and specificity. The team had identical success differentiating primary brain tumors from secondary tumors that had metastasized from the lung or breast to the brain.

In addition, profile analysis enabled the scientists to identify, with 96% accuracy, the location of the tumor’s existence in nine brain compartments. The researchers state that the noninvasive nature of the test should enable healthcare experts to observe cancer progression over time so they can make better decisions on treatment.

Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science Deans Research Fund; Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grants; and NSERC Discovery Grant, Idea to Innovation, and Alliance Grants provided the funding.

Journal Reference:

Premachandran, S., et al (2022) DEEP Surveillance of Brain Cancer Using Self-Functionalized 3D Nanoprobes for Noninvasive Liquid Biopsy. ACS Nano.

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