Scientists are trialling a world-first blood test for brain cancer and the simple check could lessen the need for invasive and risky biopsy surgery currently in use.

The test could also aid doctors in diagnosing brain cancers earlier, potentially leading to faster treatment and improved survival rates.

Experts believe the liquid biopsy would be especially beneficial for patients with “inaccessible” brain tumours that can’t be operated on.

This test works by spotting bits of tumour DNA floating in the bloodstream and can detect glioblastoma, astrocytoma and oligodendroglioma. Glioblastoma is the most common type of brain cancer in adults and is fast-growing and very deadly.

Researchers at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence, run by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, have conducted the first studies of the test’s accuracy.

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“It’s a real breakthrough for treatment of brain cancers that rarely spread around the body. This could help speed up diagnosis, enabling surgeons to apply tailored treatments based on that biopsy to increase patients’ chances of survival,” said one expert.

Dr Nelofer Syed, who leads the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Imperial, added: “A non-invasive, inexpensive method for the early detection of brain tumours is critical for improvements in patient care.

“There is still some way to go, but this solution could help people where a brain biopsy or surgical resection of the tumour is not possible due to the location of the tumour or other constraints.”

“Through this technology, a diagnosis of inaccessible tumours can become possible through a risk-free and patient-friendly blood test. We believe this would be a world first as there are currently no non-invasive or non-radiological tests for these types of tumours,” Dr Syed continued.

Brain Tumour Research called the findings “significant” as less than one per cent of patients with GBM live for more than 10 years and, for many, the prognosis is as little as 12 months.

Dan Knowles, chief executive of the charity, said: “This ground-breaking research could lead to earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes for brain tumour patients. The research undertaken in UK universities is world class and something we should all be proud of, but we need so much more.”

“It is scandalous to think that there have been no improvements to treatment options for this type of tumour in two decades and the standard of care for GBM patients – surgical resection followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy – remains unchanged.

“This is why we are campaigning for the Government and larger charities to invest more and we will keep up the pressure until patients and their families get the help they so desperately need.”

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