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Researchers prototype urine test for brain cancer

July 15, 2021

Brain cancer often reveals itself in limb immobility or an inability to speak. Confirmation of the diagnosis comes with an MRI or CT  scan. By the time symptoms appear and the scans are complete, a tumor can be too large to fully remove.

Earlier detection would likely increase survival rates, and a new diagnostic method out of Japan offers promise. Researchers at Nagoya university report that they’ve developed a technology to detect brain cancer biomarkers – specifically microRNAs (tiny molecules of nucleic acid) – in urine.

“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,” said Nagoya University Associate Professor Atsushi Natsume, a corresponding author of the study. “So, we decided to develop a device capable of doing it.”

Nanowires help detect microRNAs

Natsume’s team reports it has developed a new device that can extract a significantly greater variety and quantity of microRNAs from only a milliliter of urine compared to conventional methods. The device, equipped with 100 million zinc oxide nanowires, can be sterilized and mass-produced.

The researchers first established that microRNAs derived from brain tumors exist in urine in a stable condition. In tests on the urine of brain cancer patients and controls, the method can reportedly distinguish the patients from non-cancer individuals at a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 97%, regardless of the malignancy and size of tumors. That means the study correctly identified 100% of cancer patients and 97% of noncancer volunteers, as BGR reported. The researchers thus concluded that microRNAs in urine is a promising biomarker of brain tumors.

The study, “Urinary MicroRNA-based Diagnostic Model for Central Nervous System Tumors Using Nanowire Scaffolds,” was published online in the journal ACS applied Materials & Interfaces on April 1, 2021 at DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c01754.

Liquid biopsies may help enhance patient outcomes

At iSpecimen, we’re deeply invested in work with a number of developers of cancer diagnostics and liquid biopsies, which analyze the blood or other biofluid for signs of cancer. Liquid biopsies are less invasive and easier to administer at scale than tissue biopsies.

We regularly provide samples of human biofluids to these organizations. When ordering specimens, researchers can specify the source patient’s age, gender, race, condition, severity, blood type, procedures, test results, outcomes, smoking status, family history, and more.

The goal is to catch more cancers earlier in their development, leading to more cures and longer lives.

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