Monitoring tumors is an essential part of cancer treatment; it allows doctors to make informed decisions regarding which therapies to use. For many forms of cancer, medical professionals have been using the DNA that a tumor sheds into the bloodstream to monitor cancer. In terms of brain cancer, this is not possible due to the blood brain barrier. Fortunately, researchers from the University of Michigan have discovered that cerebrospinal fluid may be helpful in monitoring gliomas, a form of brain cancer.
Cerebrospinal Fluid and Brain Tumors
Crossing the blood brain barrier is an obstacle that often harms efforts to treat, monitor, and diagnose brain tumors. It is an obstacle that many doctors have faced when trying to monitor patients with gliomas.
Researchers believe that they may have found a way to overcome this challenge as they discovered that the cerebrospinal fluid contains the genetic sequences of the tumors. They hope that their study will convince other medical professionals that spinal fluid is essential to monitoring gliomas, as collecting it is not currently the norm.
The study that was conducted focused on “liquid biopsies” and was published in Clinical Cancer Research. Using a handheld DNA sequencing device to analyze the tumor’s DNA within the cerebrospinal fluid, the researchers looked at data from twelve patients, all of whom had high-grade gliomas.
Results revealed that their method worked well, and it showed that there is a way to monitor patients with brain cancer through their cerebrospinal fluid. Considering that brain cancer is often aggressive and very difficult to treat, this breakthrough is exciting for patients and doctors.
Through this new approach, doctors can tell if treatment is working, if a new treatment will work better, and how the tumor is mutating over time. It is also a quicker method that is less invasive for the patient, making it a better method all around.
Gliomas are a type of tumor that appear in the brain and spinal cord. They fall into three different categories: astrocytomas, ependyomas, and oligodendrogliomas. Regardless of the type of glioma that one has, they will experience symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting, personality changes, irritability, confusion, memory loss, seizures, issues with speech, problems with balance and vision, and urinary incontinence. While doctors are unsure as to why these tumors form, they do know a number of risk factors. These include age (someone between the years of 45 to 65 is most likely to be affected), a family history of glioma, and exposure to radiation. Treatment options consist of surgery to remove the tumor, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted drug therapy.
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