Lateral flow test to detect recurring aggressive brain tumours

6th November 2023

The world’s first lateral flow test to detect aggressive, recurring brain tumours is being developed by scientists at the University of Sheffield and Nottingham Trent University.

  • A simple lateral flow test, similar to those used during the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to detect recurring, aggressive brain tumours
  • The technology, developed by scientists at the University of Sheffield and Nottingham Trent University will improve the lives of tens of thousands of people worldwide  
  • The test, which patients can use at home, will target aggressive recurring tumours which currently lead to almost 200,000 deaths a year globally

The world’s first lateral flow test to detect aggressive, recurring brain tumours is being developed by scientists at the University of Sheffield and Nottingham Trent University.

The simple test, which patients can use at home, is similar to those used during the Covid-19 pandemic. The pioneering work, funded by the Medical Research Council, will target aggressive recurring tumours which currently lead to almost 200,000 deaths a year globally.

While tumour recurrence following initial treatment is often inevitable in patients, its unpredictable timing makes it difficult to detect early, leading to poor prognosis.

The researchers hope the new technology would improve the lives of tens of thousands of people worldwide and significantly reduce the need for MRI scans and provide a cost-effective alternative to some clinic appointments.

The technology, which would work via a simple finger prick, will focus on developing lateral flow tests capable of detecting molecules in the blood which are specific to a tumour and would give a very early indication of it returning.

Prototype lateral flow tests are being developed in the lab before the study moves to clinical validation.

The technology will seek to detect cancers such as glioblastoma (GBM) , the most malignant form of brain tumour.

Dr Ola Rominiyi, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Medicine and Population Health, said:

“Aggressive brain tumours such as glioblastoma virtually always come back after treatment, but detecting this recurrence at the earliest possible stage remains a challenge and an important priority for research highlighted by patients.

“Currently, patients often have follow-up MRI scans every three to six months, but successful development of lateral flow tests to detect brain cancer could make it possible to efficiently test for recurrence every week, so that more recurrent tumours are caught early, at a more treatable stage.”

Philippe Wilson, Professor of One Health at Nottingham Trent University, said:

“Brain tumours are managed with the best available treatments when first diagnosed but, unfortunately, recurrence is a major problem and some come back very quickly and aggressively.

“If you have an MRI six months after treatment, by that point a tumour could have been back for a significant amount of time potentially. It’s hard to imagine a medical technology so widely used and understood as the lateral flow test. This tech would provide regular, affordable disease monitoring for patients at home in an easy-to-use way.

“We hope the work could be applied to other types of cancer too, potentially helping to save millions of lives worldwide.”

Dr Megan Dowie, MRC Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, said:

“We are pleased to be supporting the team towards achieving potential real world impact of more timely detection of brain tumour recurrence - a critical need for patients.”

Funding for the project has come from the Medical Research Council as part of investment to support researchers to understand and treat cancers with exceptionally poor survival rates. 

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