A new non-invasive liquid biopsy technique for early detection of brain tumours

From Asia Research News

Malignant glioma is the most common type of primary brain cancer. But lack of early diagnosis, among many other factors, has made it difficult to be treated. Recently, a team of cross-disciplinary scientists from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has discovered new biomarkers in blood serum, which can be quantitatively detected by the label-free biosensors developed by the team, for the early detection of glioma progression. The findings enable a non-invasive liquid biopsy of glioma to be conducted, making it a promising diagnostic tool in the future.

“While most of the researches have focused on the glioma cells or the genes, we are more interested in the interactions between glioma cells and their surrounding cells via exosomes,” said Dr Lee who is a neuroscientist.

Exosomes are nanovesicles with diameters of 30-200 nm released by glioma cells. They contain tumour-specific messenger RNA (mRNA) and mutant proteins and promote tumour progression by transporting these pro-oncogenic molecules to neighbouring cells. Also, they can cross the blood-brain-barrier and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier, meaning that they can be detected in the blood.

A new biomarker in exosomes

In the study, the team discovered that MCT1 and CD147 in glioma cells actually controlled the release and composition of the exosomes.

“This means that knocking down the MCT1 and CD147 can produce an anti-cancer effect not only via inhibiting the progression of cancer cells themselves. But it also blocks the interaction of cancer cells and surrounding cells via exosomes, including the transport of pro-oncogenic molecules to other cells,” said Dr Abhimanyu Thakur, first author of the paper and research assistant from NS.

More importantly, the team found that there are also MCT1 and CD147 inside exosomes. And the MCT1 and CD147 levels in exosomes increased during the hypoxia-driven malignant progression of glioma cells. The quantitative analysis further showed that the MCT1 and CD147 levels in exosomes could reflect the respective levels in glioma cells. This means the exosomal MCT1 and CD147 can also be used as a biomarker for tracking the malignant progression of glioma.

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