Weekly pick of Neuroscience news from around the world

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Liquid biopsy to predict GBM prognosis

This liquid biopsy is a blood test that measures the amount of DNA shed by cancer cells in the bloodstream – known as cell-free DNA (cfDNA), and the understanding of University of Pennsylvania researchers involved in this study is that higher concentrations of cfDNA in the bloodstream are linked to lower survival rates. This test can therefore predict how patients will progress after they are diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

Dr Erica L Carpenter, at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Until now, there has been little focus on the clinical utility of liquid biopsy in brain tumours.”

And her colleague Stephen J Bagley added: “If our findings are validated by further studies, it would mean that these patients may be able to get a simple blood test that would give us a more accurate assessment than imaging of whether their disease has progressed or not, as well as more data on the mutations in their tumours.”

They add the usual scientific caveat that their work is “more hypothesis-generating than practice-changing” at this point, and they are planning to perform a larger analysis in the future.

Whilst this is not a new treatment this would be furthering our understanding of GBM hopefully en route to a cure.

Of relevance here is the work funded at our University of Plymouth centre aimed at  developing a blood test for Meningioma.

Researchers Identify Possible Approach to Block Medulloblastoma Growth

The most common type of brain tumour in children is medulloblastoma and whilst as many as 80% of children survive long-term almost all patients come through their treatment changed, many with debilitating side effects. There is clearly a need to improve existing therapies like chemotherapy and radiotherapy and to develop new options that work for children whose cancer doesn’t respond to treatment.

A major step towards this goal would be to understand this tumour type better and therefore news that researchers have identified a potential approach to stop the growth of this tumour type is encouraging.

Timothy Gerson, MD, PhD from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre reported in the journal Development that by blocking a signal called GSK-3, they could control tumour growth in a subtype of medulloblastoma. Their preclinical findings may provide clues to a possible new targeted treatment strategy. “Our goal would be to find ways to treat the disease that would provide fewer side effects” he said.

“This work could lead to new insights into developmental brain malformations and also to new treatments for medulloblastoma that may spare the severe side effects of radiation and typical chemotherapy,” Gerson continued.

Researchers have already begun work to evaluate this treatment type further in laboratory models.

An easy to read piece from the UK press here  Brain tumour symptoms: The signs in the eyes that could signal the deadly condition  this also provides the reason why we work closely with opticians having enjoyed Wear A Hat Day support from Specsavers for several years.

This week is slightly light on specific brain tumour research updates which gives us a chance to include this piece from last week  about a possible gut-brain connection to ‘chemo brain’ although you may want to have finished your lunch before clicking through to this one.

Finally  a concise and easy to understand explanation of the vital and fascinating world of Brain Mapping.

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