Early diagnosis of brain tumors is often difficult. People often develop symptoms before tumors are found on a CT or MRI scan. Now, researchers in Japan say a simple urine test could someday improve tumor detection.
By the time brain tumors are diagnosed, they may have grown to a size where they are more difficult to treat or remove. That can lower the chances a patient will survive.
Scientists at Nagoya [nuh-goi-uh] University determined that microRNAs in urine are a path toward developing an inexpensive, quick and accurate way to detect brain tumors. MicroRNAs are tiny molecules of nucleic acid from different types of cells that exist in stable environments such as blood or urine.
Until now, urine-based testing hadn’t been investigated in patients with brain tumors because previous methods couldn’t extract microRNAs from the urine.
In their study, the team developed a device that makes it possible to extract microRNAs from only a milliliter of urine. To establish their findings, they assessed the chemical composition of urine in patients with and without brain tumors. The study concluded that the new technology could distinguish patients who have tumors from those without tumors, regardless of the size of the mass. During testing, the devices was found to be 97% accurate, regardless of the tumor’s size and malignancy.
Scientists also like the microRNA test’s potential because of its simplicity and convenience: Initial clues about a tumor deep within the brain can be spotted with a noninvasive approach.
And there could be something for patients to like too, if in the future, they can take comfort in the prospect of an earlier diagnosis.