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Blood test could help to accelerate brain tumour diagnosis

Researchers have developed a blood test that could help identify people with a brain tumour, even if they have no clear-cut symptoms.

The test is being hailed as a step towards reducing diagnosis times by allowing doctors to pinpoint patients who should be referred for a brain scan.

The process, created by a team in Scotland, uses infrared light to analyse a patient’s blood and create a ‘bio-signature’ for each sample.

The results are screened using artificial intelligence (AI) to work out which samples share bio-signatures that could indicate a brain tumour.

A paper published in the journal Nature Communications says when the test was applied to a group of 104 patients before diagnosis, it correctly distinguished those with a brain tumour in 87% of cases.

The team that developed the test is led by researchers at the University of Strathclyde and includes Dr Paul Brennan, whose research we part-fund and who has worked closely with us on efforts to reduce the time it takes to diagnose adults with a brain tumour in the UK.

Dr Brennan, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Diagnosing brain tumours is difficult, leading to delays and frustration for lots of patients. The problem is that symptoms of brain tumour are quite non-specific, such as headache, or memory problems. It can be difficult for doctors to tell which people are most likely to have a brain tumour.

“With this new test, we have shown that we can help doctors quickly identify which patients with these non-specific symptoms should be prioritised for urgent brain imaging.

“This means a more rapid diagnosis for people with a brain tumour, and quicker access to treatment.”

The test is now being developed further in the hope that it can be made more widely available within the next few years.