Lateral flow test to detect brain cancer recurrence

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Scientists in Nottingham are developing a lateral flow test to detect recurring, aggressive brain tumours.

The new test would work via a simple finger prick, and it is hoped it could improve the lives of tens of thousands of people across the world. The work is being led by Nottingham Trent University (NTU), funded by the Medical Research Council, working with scientists at the University of Sheffield.

The aim is to develop a simple test that patients can use at home, similar to those used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The test would be capable of detecting molecules in the blood that are specific to the tumour and would give a very early indication of it returning. Prototypes are being worked on before the study moves to clinical trials. The hope is it will detect tumour types including glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive and commonly diagnosed brain tumour in adults.

Philippe Wilson, Professor of One Health NTU, said: “Brain tumours are managed with the best available treatments when first diagnosed but, unfortunately, recurrence is a major problem, and some come back very quickly and aggressively.

“If you have an MRI six months after treatment, by that point a tumour could have been back for a significant amount of time potentially. It’s hard to imagine a medical technology so widely used and understood as the lateral flow test. This tech would provide regular, affordable disease monitoring for patients at home in an easy-to-use way. We hope the work could be applied to other types of cancer too, potentially helping to save millions of lives worldwide.”

Dr Karen Noble, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Brain Tumour Research, said: “This project has great potential, and we welcome anything which brings hope to brain tumour patients, particularly those with GBM which has a devastatingly short prognosis, often as little as 12 to 18 months. It’s vital that we don’t lose sight of the fact that the key thing patients so desperately need is new treatment options and that is why we are keeping up pressure on the Government and the larger charities to invest more in research as well as fundraising to support the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence network.”

Dr Ola Rominiyi, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Medicine and Population Health, said: “Aggressive brain tumours such as glioblastoma virtually always come back after treatment, but detecting this recurrence at the earliest possible stage remains a challenge and an important priority for research highlighted by patients.

“Currently, patients often have follow-up MRI scans every three to six months, but successful development of a lateral flow test to detect brain cancer could make it possible to efficiently test for recurrence every week, so that more recurrent tumours are caught early, at a more treatable stage.”

Dr Noble and Dr Rominiyi are among scientists gathering in Milton Keynes today as Brain Tumour Research hosts its annual researcher workshop.

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