A cerebrospinal fluid test to track tumor progression in some gliomas

A team of researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College used genetic testing of cells found in cerebrospinal fluid to track certain brain tumors. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes tests they conducted with cancer patients and analysis of their cerebrospinal fluid, and what they found.

Doctors who treat patients with brain cancer face unique challenges when attempting to track tumor progression due to the difficulty of extracting tumor samples. Performing simple biopsies generally involves invasive and dangerous brain surgery. In this new effort, the researchers found that biopsies for some patients can be done via lumbar puncture, a procedure in which fluid is removed from the spinal column and tested.

Many tumors, including those that form in the brain, shed cells into the body around them. Such cells often make their way into the bloodstream. Testing for these can offer information about the tumor. Brain tumors cell shedding, unfortunately, does not usually result in tumor cells entering the bloodstream due to the blood/brain barrier. But they do sometimes make their way into cerebrospinal fluid, the researchers found, where it is relatively easy to extract and test them. Testing involves conducting DNA sequencing on suspicious cells to see if they are normal body cells or tumor cells.

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