Infrared and AI combine for new brain tumour blood test

1 min read

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have developed a new blood test for brain tumours that can accurately detect cancer with 87 per cent accuracy.

brain tumour

Symptoms associated with brain tumours such as headache and memory inhibition are non-specific, making it difficult to diagnose the cancer. The new patented technique uses attenuated total reflection- Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy, in combination with artificial intelligence, to rapidly diagnose the condition in triage conditions.

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The technology has been developed by ClinSpec Diagnostics, which was spun out from the University in February 2019. According to a paper based on the work published in Nature Communications, the blood test can characterise the biochemical profile of a sample without extensive sample preparation

“This is the first publication of data from our clinical feasibility study and it is the first demonstration that our blood test works in the clinic,” said research lead Dr Matthew Baker, chief scientific officer at ClinSpec Diagnostics and reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

“Earlier detection of brain tumours in the diagnostic pathway brings the potential to significantly improve patient quality of life and survival, whilst also providing savings to the health services.”

Instrumentation for the analysis of serum was able to differentiate cancer and control patients at a sensitivity and specificity of 93.2 per cent and 92.8 per cent respectively, giving an overall accuracy of approximately 87 per cent. While not offering a definitive diagnosis, it could help doctors prioritise patients to be sent for brain scans and further testing.

“Diagnosing brain tumours is difficult, leading to delays and frustration for lots of patients,” said Dr Paul Brennan, senior clinical lecturer and consultant neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh, which is a partner in the study.

“With this new test, we have shown that we can help doctors quickly identify which patients with these non-specific symptoms should be prioritised for urgent brain imaging. This means a more rapid diagnosis for people with a brain tumour, and quicker access to treatment.”