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New Technique to Cut Brain Cancer Diagnosis Time to Just 30 Minutes

28 November 2013

Press Office

UCLan research promises to cut brain cancer diagnosis times

New research from The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) promises to cut brain cancer diagnosis times from two to three days to just 30 minutes.

The research, developed by Dr Matthew Baker and Mr Peter Abel, is based on using a non-invasive technique to diagnose brain cancer by analysing patients’ blood samples using a combination of infrared lighting and protein biomarkers.

Published today on the front cover of the November edition 405(29) of Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, the revolutionary technique is currently undergoing a patent application. This method would transform the diagnosis of patients with brain tumours who currently have to wait two to three days in hospital while invasive and uncomfortable tests are carried out on them before they get their results.

More than 16,000 people globally each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour. In the UK, more children and adults under 40 die of a brain tumour than from any other cancer – but despite this, brain tumours receive less than 1% of the national spend on cancer research.

The research, the result of collaboration between UCLan’s School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences and its School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, is based on an initial analysis of blood samples donated by 49 cancer patients and 25 non- cancer patients. The study demonstrated the ability for specific biochemical markers and infrared spectroscopy to diagnose gliomas – a particular kind of primary brain tumour.

“The result we have achieved is a milestone and has the ability to revolutionise the clinical environment by providing objective measures for diagnoses, enabling increased efficiency and economic impact upon the health services.”

Dr Baker found molecular differences when infrared light was transmitted directly at them. The light detected molecular vibration from the serum, which identified different disease states i.e. cancer or non-cancer. This test can achieve a diagnosis within 30 minutes.

Mr Peter Abel took the testing one step further and observed cytokine Angiogenesis-associated protein levels, which discriminated between glioma and non-cancer blood sera, through various data combinations, achieving results in less than five hours. Both research strategies are combining to attempt to read the molecular language of brain tumours in blood in different ways.

Dr Matthew Baker from the School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences said:

“Statistics have shown us that more children and adults under 40 die of a brain tumour than from any other cancer and despite this brain tumours receive less than 1% of the national spend on cancer research. We at UCLan are committed to providing reliable diagnostic tests to enable earlier detection of cancer. This type of research provides a non-invasive solution to detecting the early stages of brain cancer whilst supporting medical decision making and helping healthcare professionals to improve patient outcomes. The result we have achieved is a milestone and has the ability to revolutionise the clinical environment by providing objective measures for diagnoses, enabling increased efficiency and economic impact upon the health services. We hope this will also help to relieve some of the emotional stress patience experience waiting for test results.”

“This new test could expand cancer diagnostics globally, allowing the possibility of screening for brain cancer to diagnose at a much earlier stage and detecting for recurrent tumours.”

Mr Peter Abel from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences said:

“The current regime relies on time-consuming testing including histological grading, requiring hospitalisation of 2-3 days. Separately, brain tumour research is woefully under-funded and treatments lag seriously behind other cancers. This new test could expand cancer diagnostics globally, allowing the possibility of screening for brain cancer to diagnose at a much earlier stage and detecting for recurrent tumours. We believe that in time, this technique could be carried out by a doctor as part of a regular health screening, helping to increase survival rates whilst relieving the healthcare resource crisis.”

The research conducted benefited from blood samples supplied by Walton Research Tissue Bank and Brain Tumour North West. Testing of brain cancer using infrared lighting and protein biomarkers is the first to be determined and has great opportunity to cause a radical impact to the health sector at large. The study, which is going through patent process, has significant presence, adding to a growing body of evidence that suggests spectroscopy can detect cancer in any part of the body.

To further support spectroscopy on brain cancer and early diagnosis, active collaboration took place with Lancaster University and University of Jena, who confirmed similar results were achieved when carrying out tests on human tissue specimens.