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Biomarkers in Liquid Biopsies Detect Glioblastoma Tumors

Glioblastoma tumor cells.

Researchers have identified glioblastoma biomarkers in extracellular vesicles that could enable a liquid biopsy, serving as a more efficient and less invasive means of detecting and subtyping this cancer.

The most aggressive type of brain tumor, glioblastoma has a poor survival rate and limited treatment options. While it can currently be diagnosed through tumor biopsies, this method can be time consuming, invasive, and painful. There is a need to develop more effective options for detecting glioblastoma tumors.

Researchers led by first author Rosemary Lane, a PhD student at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, have found a potential solution in biomarkers contained in extracellular vesicles, membrane-enclosed vesicles which are released into the bodily fluids that comprise the cellular environment, enabling tumor cells to communicate and maintain high heterogeneity. Because extracellular vesicles are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, they serve as valuable carriers of biomarkers—molecules that indicate the presence of cancer—for glioblastoma.

Each of the three subtypes of glioblastoma has a specific set of biomarkers containing different information. By identifying biomarkers in liquid biopsies, the investigators were able to accurately classify tumors from each subtype. This research could be a first step towards the development of a blood test to detect glioblastoma tumors. Using liquid biopsies derived from blood or cerebrospinal fluid, doctors could potentially test for glioblastoma and determine tumor subtypes, thereby improving the accuracy of diagnosis. Additionally, this strategy could be used to improve patient care by individualizing treatment plans and monitoring their efficacy.

"Our research provides more information about the markers which can signal the presence of glioblastoma," comments the study's senior author, Georgios Giamas, PhD, Professor of Cancer Cell Signaling at the University of Sussex. "The fact that 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 tumors in [the] future."

For More Information

Lane R, Simon T, Vintu M, et al (2019). Cell-derived extracellular vesicles can be used as a biomarker reservoir for glioblastoma tumor subtyping. Commun Biol. [Epub ahead of print]. DOI:10.1038/s42003-019-0560-x

​Image credit: Jensflorian. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


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