Patients have a better chance of surviving cancer if they are discovered early enough so that treatment can begin right away. Doctors frequently look for indicators to confirm the presence of a tumor, but not all tumors are created equal. To establish an accurate diagnosis, numerous biomarkers are employed in conjunction with other tests to detect various forms of malignant growths.
Brain cancer is one type of tumor that is difficult to detect early since patients typically receive a CT or MRI scan only after experiencing neurological symptoms. Doctors would propose the scan to examine the structure of the brain, after which they would find and diagnose the abnormal tissue.
It may be too late for surgery to totally remove the tumor once the diagnosis is received. As a result, the patient’s odds of survival would be reduced.
A group of Nagoya University scientists set out to solve the problem and devised a ground-breaking urine test that could greatly speed up brain cancer diagnosis and save lives.
Researchers at Nagoya University developed a microRNA urine test that can detect brain cancer with 97 percent specificity, according to a study published in Applied Materials & Interfaces.
MicroRNAs are small nucleic acid molecules released in bodily fluids such as blood and urine by various cells. The researchers concentrated on these tiny particles and devised a method for identifying molecules that could serve as a precursor to brain tumors.
“Urine can be collected easily without putting a burden on the human body,” Nagoya University Associate Professor Atsushi Natsume said in a statement. “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. So, we decided to develop a device capable of doing it.”
The scientists constructed a device made up of 100 million zinc oxide nanowires to trap microRNA that might be passing through urine. The device may be mass-produced and sanitized for use in medical settings. The device requires only one millimeter of urine to extract a considerable amount of microRNA from a sample, much beyond what is currently available in the industry.
Many microRNAs from brain tumors are found in urine in a stable state, according to the study. They tested their equipment on samples from both brain cancer patients and healthy people. According to the study, the device has a sensitivity of 100 percent and a specificity of 97 percent for diagnosing brain tumors, regardless of their size or aggressiveness.
Sensitivity refers to the percentage of positive diagnoses that are correctly detected, whereas specificity refers to the percentage of true negative diagnoses that are accurately identified in a test. This means that the study successfully identified 100% of cancer patients and 97% of non-cancer volunteers.
The Nagoya University researchers believe the new test could be used as a marker to detect different kinds of brain cancer early. “In the future, by a combination of artificial intelligence and telemedicine, people will be able to know the presence of cancer, whereas doctors will be able to know the status of cancer patients just with a small amount of their daily urine,” Dr. Natsume said.