Glioblastoma: could a blood test be on the horizon?

Written by Sharon Salt, Editor

A team of scientists from the University of Sussex (UK) has identified novel biomarkers within the blood that may be used to diagnose glioblastoma.

Within the study, which has been published in Communications Biology, the researchers describe particular biomarkers that are associated with extracellular vesicles.

Previous studies have noted that small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) associated with tumors may be accessible in biofluids. However, more recently, studies have also implicated that sEVs could contain valuable biomarkers for patients with glioblastoma in terms of diagnosis and follow-up.

In this present study, the scientists aimed to determine the protein content of sEVs produced by different glioblastoma cell lines and patient-derived stem cells.

Their results revealed that the content within sEVs does indeed mirror the phenotypic signature of the respective glioblastoma cells. This suggests that bodily fluids may be a simple way to test for the disease as opposed to a biopsy.

“Our research provides more information about the markers which can signal the presence of glioblastoma – and the fact we’ve been able to identify ones that are associated with extracellular vesicles, suggests that there could be a way to use bodily fluids to test for the tumor in future,” explained corresponding author, Georgics Giamas (University of Sussex).

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At present, there is a growing body of research investigating the possibility of developing liquid biopsies, such as blood tests, to spot other types of cancers. As opposed to obtaining tissue from a particular organ, liquid biopsies would allow clinicians to obtain a small blood sample to test for a range of biomarkers that could help identify the subtype of tumor involved.

Thomas Simon (University of Sussex), co-author of the study, commented: “Liquid biopsies mean a less invasive procedure for patients, and arguably quicker results – something which is invaluable for those with an aggressive tumor that severely cuts life expectancy.”

“But it could also mean better patient follow-up care, as a simple test can be carried out to check for the efficacy of existing treatments or for monitoring relapse,” Simon added.

The next steps for the research team including testing and validating the presence of these newly described biomarkers in patients with glioblastoma.

Sources: Lane R, Simon T, Vintu M et al. Cell-derived extracellular vesicles can be used as a biomarker reservoir for glioblastoma tumor subtyping. Comm. Biol. 2, 315 (2019); www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/uos-abt081919.php