New device detects brain cancer earlier, may improve survival

Every part of the human body influences and is influenced by every other part of the human body. That principle has enabled scientists at Nagoya University in Japan to create a new device that detects a membrane protein in urine that indicates the presence of a brain tumor. This testing method may increase the chance of detecting tumors earlier in their development when they are more amenable to surgical removal. This research also has implications for detecting other types of cancer.

For more than 20 years, there has been virtually no improvement in the survival of patients with brain tumors. Often, brain tumors are diagnosed only after reaching a size which causes symptoms, such as changes in movement or speech. Detecting a tumor and starting treatment when it is small should save lives. 

Brain tumors are associated with tumor-related extracellular vesicles (EVs) in urine. The EVs in brain tumor patients have specific types of RNA and membrane proteins which, when detected in urine, may indicate a tumor. This testing method can also be used to follow the tumor’s progression. 

Associate Professor Takao Yasui of Nagoya University Graduate School of Engineering said, in a statement, “Urine tests are an effective, simple, and non-invasive [testing] method because the urine contains many informative biomolecules that can be traced back to identify the disease.” 

A research group led by Yasui and Professor Yoshinobu Baba of Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Engineering, has developed a new device for analyzing brain tumor EVs in urine. The device identified two types of EV membrane proteins, known as CD31/CD6.

“Currently, EV isolation and detection methods require more than two instruments and an assay to isolate and then detect EVs,” said Yasui. “The all-in-one nanowire assay can isolate and detect EVs using one simple procedure. In the future, users can run samples through our assay and change the detection part, by selectively modifying it to detect specific membrane proteins or miRNAs inside EVs to detect other types of cancer. Using this platform, we expect to advance the analysis of the expression levels of specific membrane proteins in patients’ urinary EVs, which will enable the early detection of different types of cancer.” 

The research is published in ACS Nano.      

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About the Author

Dr. Faith Coleman

Faith A. Coleman MD
Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Dr. Coleman writes on health, medicine, family, and parenting for online information services and educational materials for health care providers.

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