A new blood test can detect brain tumours in their infancy in a development hailed as “transformative” for patients and doctors, a study has indicated.
It is hoped the ability to identify tumours at an earlier stage can reduce harms from surgery and fast-track patients into brain-imaging scans for better survival outcomes.
Currently diagnosis can take more than eight weeks, requiring several GP visits, with delays common due to non-cancer diagnoses, experts say.
Blood samples from 177 patients with varying sizes of brain tumours were analysed using patented technology by Glasgow-based health-tech firm Dxcover, which used spectroscopic analysis under infra-red light and then machine learning software.
The findings, published in the journal Cancers, showed the test was effective at identifying patients with tumours as small as 0.2cm.
Some 12,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with brain tumours annually and survival rates are as low as 12% five years after diagnosis, according to Cancer Research UK.
Dr Paul Brennan, a consultant neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh, said diagnosis is difficult “because the most common symptoms are not specific to brain tumours”.
He said: “A non-cancer diagnosis is more likely and this contributes to diagnostic delay.
“The Dxcover test will support primary care doctors to identify which of these patients are most likely to have a brain tumour and should be referred for rapid brain imaging.
“This will be transformative for both patients and doctors.”
Dr Matt Baker, Dxcover’s chief technical officer, hailed the results as “a watershed moment in the development of early cancer detection” which could “increase treatment options and potentially extend life expectancy”.
“Clinical tests like this are a crucial part of Dxcover’s journey to develop and commercialise a widely accepted multi-cancer early detection platform to help save lives”, he said.
Dxcover, a spin-off from the University of Strathclyde, calls its technology a “brain cancer liquid biopsy”.