Chemical tag in blood can spot lethal brain tumours

The re-emergence of most malignant brain tumour can now be detected by a blood test.

Written by SURBHI KHYATI | Lucknow | Published:November 25, 2010 4:17 am

The re-emergence of most malignant brain tumour can now be detected by a blood test.

Doctors at the National Institute of Mental Health And Neuroscience (NIMHANS),Bengaluru,have found a protein,osteopontin,in the bloodstream of patients who have a particular type of brain tumour. The protein acts as a biomarker ¿ which are indicators of specific biological states that can help detect a disease early. It will help detect a recurrent brain tumour in time,contributing to its better management. The information was given by Prof Vani Santosh of Department of Neuropathology,NIMHANS.

Santosh was in town to participate in a two-day Symposium on “Biomarkers for CNS Diseases” organised by the Department of Pharmacology,CSMMU,which concluded in Lucknow on Wednesday. “For the first time in India,we have been able to find a serum biomarker for glioblastoma,the most aggressive and malignant brain tumour found in adults,with most patients dying within two years of its diagnosis,” she said. Glioblastoma is also the most common type of brain tumour found in adult population.

Osteopontin was discovered by Santosh and her team in tumour tissues and the bloodstream of patients. The research was published earlier this year in the journal ‘Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention’.

So far,it has not been possible to track the position of the tumour,Santosh said. The re-emergence is only detected when patient presents himself with symptoms,by which time,the tumour is generally well developed. “With the bio-marker,a patient’s osteopontin level in blood can be monitored and as soon as the level increases beyond a point,immediate intervention is possible,” she said. The tumour,as of now,is treated through surgery followed by radio and chemotherapy. “We are trying to come up with the exact level of osteopontin where it can be said that the tumour has re-emerged. The research on this front is still going on,” she said.

Another major significance of the biomarker lies in its capability to detect aggressiveness of the tumour.

“Tumours in some patients are more aggressive,” she said. “Higher levels of the biomarker can well be associated with poor survival of the patient.”

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