London, March 18: A simple blood test could reduce, or in some cases replace, the need for intrusive surgery when determining the best course of treatment for patients with a specific type of brain tumour, a new study finds.
The researchers have discovered a biomarker, known as the protein Fibulin-2 (FBLN2), which helps to distinguish whether meningioma -- the most common form of adult primary brain tumour -- is grade I or grade II.
The grading is significant because lower grade tumours can sometimes remain dormant for long periods, not requiring high risk surgery or harsh treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Tumours classified as grade II can progress to become cancerous and more aggressive treatment may be needed in order to try to control their spread.
"In this study, we identified FBLN2 as a novel biomarker that can distinguish grade II from grade I meningiomas. Higher levels of this biomarker were found in tumour samples from grade II meningioma compared with the grade I form," said researcher C. Oliver Hanemann from the University of Plymouth in the UK.
"We also showed that higher levels of FBLN2 can be detected in blood samples from grade II meningioma patients, compared to those from grade I meningioma patients. The identification of FBLN2 as a biomarker for meningioma has significant potential to improve the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and follow-up of meningiomas," Hanemann added.
The researchers said that this novel biomarker has not previously been shown to play a role in meningioma development, although it has been linked to other types of cancer such as forms in the lung, liver, breast and pancreas.
For the study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, using tumour samples, cancer cells grown in the laboratory and liquid biopsies from patients, the team was able to distinguish grade I from grade II tumours.
In a smaller sub-study, the researchers have shown that levels of the biomarker could differentiate between good (slower growing) and bad (faster growing) grade tumours as defined by genetic make-up.