Urine test detects brain tumors with high degree of accuracy
While a brain tumor might reveal itself through symptoms such as irregular headaches, nausea or impaired speech, often these symptoms don't appear until the disease is well advanced. This makes early diagnosis tricky, though doing so could lead to far better outcomes for patients. Scientists at Japan's Nagoya University have demonstrated how this could be achieved through a simple urine test, which has shown high accuracy in early experiments.
Along with blood tests, urine tests are shaping as an exciting technology when it comes to non-invasive and efficient cancer diagnosis. By scanning these fluid samples for biomarkers that correlate with the disease, scientists have shown how they might be able to detect cancer long before the typical clinical symptoms appear. These studies have shown particular promise when it comes to cancers of the bladder, prostate, pancreas and even the lungs.
The Nagoya University team has sought to expand these possibilities to brain cancer, with help from genetic material called microRNA. First discovered in 1993, these are short strands of non-coding RNA that play an important role in gene expression, and can take on unique forms when produced by cancer cells in the body.
The scientists sought to exploit this by developing a novel device fitted with 100 million zinc oxide nanowires that was able extract vast amounts of microRNA from urine samples as small as a milliliter in volume. Samples were collected from patients with brain tumors and a control group of non-cancer patients, with the team's analysis revealing that many microRNAs derived from brain tumors could be found in the urine in stable condition.
"Urine-based liquid biopsy hadn't been fully investigated for patients with brain tumors, because none of the conventional methodologies can extract microRNAs from urine efficiently in terms of varieties and quantities," explains study author Professor Atsushi Natsume. "So, we decided to develop a device capable of doing it."
To explore the potential of their urine test further, the scientists analyzed the expression profiles of the collected microRNA, and then used those to construct a diagnostic model. That model was then used to distinguish brain cancer patients from the control group with a sensitivity of 100 percent, and specificity of 97 percent, with the malignancy and size of the tumors having no bearing on the results.
The scientists imagine that with further work, this type of technology could offer a valuable tool in the screening of not just brain tumors, but other types of cancer, too.
"In the future, by a combination of artificial intelligence and telemedicine, people will be able to know the presence of cancer, whereas doctors will be able to know the status of cancer patients just with a small amount of their daily urine," says Natsume.
The research was published in the journal ACS applied Materials & Interfaces.
Source: Nagoya University