Approximately 2000 Australians each year are diagnosed with brain cancer, and despite ongoing interest in the management of these tumours, the most common type, Glioblastoma, is a devastating disease with only 20% of patients surviving beyond 5 years. Current methods of diagnosis and monitoring involve MRI scanning and invasive neurosurgery. Although MRI gives good anatomic and spatial information about the tumour, it is not reliable at predicting how the tumour is going to behave in the future. It is not accurate enough to detect early tumour recurrence in many patients and treatment with radiotherapy can mimic these changes therefore making interpretation of the MRI difficult. Additionally, performing frequent MRI scans is impractical and expensive. A blood test has the potential to solve these clinical challenges by providing a means of frequent, accurate non-invasive monitoring of the tumour that can aid in diagnosis and potentially avoid invasive surgery for some. Circulating biomarkers are starting to be integrated in the care of other cancers including breast and colorectal but to date there has been no validated biomarkers in brain tumours.
We have currently identified a panel of 9 blood markers that can differentiate between patients with brain tumours and healthy controls with over 99% accuracy. We plan to validate this panel during the monitoring of patients with brain tumours by collecting multiple blood samples and comparing these markers to what is seen on subsequent MRIs. We will also investigate whether any of these markers can be used in conjunction with the already known factors that are important for survival to more accurately predict prognosis and identify high-risk patients. More accurate monitoring will help to better inform the timing of MRI’s and support decisions when considering further neurosurgical intervention or other treatments as well as adapt a personalized therapy plan, all of which would be a major advance in the lives of those with brain cancer.