Could Blood Test Give Brain Cancer Radiotherapy Help?

Radiotherapy Centre - Blood test process

The use of radiotherapy dates from the end of the 19th century, but a host of technological and medical advancements over the years have increased its effectiveness in fighting cancer and extending life, while ameliorating the side effects.

However, some things remain constant. No matter what advancements have occurred in radiotherapy, chemotherapy or invasive surgery, it remains the case that any treatment has a better chance of success the sooner the cancer is diagnosed. Sadly, for many people, the diagnosis comes too late.

A New Test Brings New Hope

For that reason, patients coming to our radiotherapy centre in Vienna for treatment of brain tumours could soon enjoy a much higher rate of survival and recovery, after a new test was found to produce an earlier diagnosis.

Researchers in London, UK, have developed a new blood test that can lead to earlier diagnosis of glioblastomas, the most common potentially deadly brain tumour to affect adults.

A study at the Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence, a partnership between Imperial College London and the UK’s National Health Service, found that the test could detect tumours using what it calls the TriNetra-Glip blood test.

When a patient develops a tumour, some cells can break free from the tumour and circulate in the blood. The test has shown that these can be spotted, isolated, stained and then identified under microscopic investigation. The research was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

By doing this, diagnosis can happen sooner and it is believed that cancer patients could start to benefit from this test as soon as two years from now.

Research leader Dr Nelofer Syed said: “Through this technology, a diagnosis of inaccessible tumours can become possible through a risk-free and patient-friendly blood test.”

She added: “We believe this could be a world first as there are currently no non-invasive or non-radiological tests for this type of tumour.”

How This Can Help Patients

The implications of this development are clear; with earlier detection for more patients, the number of people who may come to a radiotherapy facility, either here in Vienna or anywhere else, is likely to rise, since there will be more people for whom the early diagnosis means it is not too late for such treatment to make a crucial difference.

As such, the overall demand for radiotherapy may rise in two ways. Apart from the higher number of people for whom it may make a difference in the first instance, there will also be those who survive their cancer the first time and go into remission, only to develop new tumours later.

However, even in that second case, early diagnosis could help again, ensuring that if a patient needs to be treated again, they could once more benefit from an early intervention that increases the chances of them winning their battle with the tumour.

New tests that can produce an earlier diagnosis would be of little use, however, if the radiotherapy itself was ineffective. That is why it still matters that tools such as the gamma knife and other innovations have come to be used more frequently, while more concentrated beams of radiation not only kill tumours more effectively, but minimise side effects.

It is also important to note that many other medical developments can work in combination with radiotherapy.

New Hope For Lung Cancer Sufferers

A good example of this is chemotherapy, with research published in the journal JAMA Oncology this month by UCLA in the United States showing how this can work on a kind of lung cancer.

Researchers found that using high doses of radiation while deploying stereotactic ablative radiotherapy alongside chemotherapy is both a safe and effective treatment for locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer that cannot be treated with invasive surgery.

Describing the development as moving into “uncharted territory”, lead author of the study Dr Trudy Wu said: “Our field has been moving towards hypofractionation across many disease sites; however, it is particularly challenging in locally advanced lung cancer.”

This is “due to the close vicinity of tumour to sensitive structures such as the airways and oesophagus,” she added.

Explaining the role of chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy in such treatment, she said the use of a “novel adaptive boost technique personalised to an individual’s treatment response after the first two-thirds of radiation treatment” brings about the provision of “a tighter conformal radiation boost plan and reduction of healthy tissue receiving radiation”.

With new discoveries like these emerging all the time, the prospects for cancer sufferers are getting better. Advances in radiotherapy can progress side by side with earlier diagnosis and better treatment combinations to produce improved outcomes for many patients, giving years of life to those who might previously have had little hope.