Scientists are developing the world’s first finger-prick test to spot brain tumours. More than 300,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with brain cancer each year, and while treatments have improved over the last few decades, recurrence remains a risk.
The unpredictable timing of tumours coming back makes them difficult to detect early. Researchers are designing a lateral flow test to pick up signs of recurrence that could be used by patients at home.
The work is being led by a team at Nottingham Trent University, funded by the Medical Research Council, alongside researchers from the University of Sheffield.
The researchers say the new test, which would work via a simple finger-prick, would improve and possibly extend the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world. It could also significantly reduce the burden on healthcare systems by reducing the need for MRI scans and providing a cost-effective alternative to some clinic appointments.
Prof Philippe Wilson of Nottingham Trent said: “Brain tumours are managed with the best available treatments when first diagnosed, but unfortunately recurrence is a major problem and some come back very quickly and aggressively. If you have an MRI six months after treatment, by that point a tumour could have been back for a significant amount of time, potentially.
“It’s hard to imagine a medical technology so widely used and understood as the lateral flow test. This tech would provide regular, affordable disease monitoring for patients at home in an easy-to-use way. We hope the work could be applied to other types of cancer too, potentially helping to save millions of lives worldwide.”
The researchers are developing a lateral flow test prototype that is capable of detecting molecules in the blood that are specific to a tumour, and would give a very early indication of its return.
Dr Ola Rominiyi, of the University of Sheffield, said finding a way to detect tumour recurrence at the earliest possible stage was an important priority for research highlighted by patients.
“Currently, patients often have follow-up MRI scans every three to six months, but successful development of a lateral flow test to detect brain cancer could make it possible to efficiently test for recurrence every week, so that more recurrent tumours are caught early, at a more treatable stage,” he said.