Spectroscopic Blood Test Accurately Detects Brain Cancer

By Will Boggs MD

October 15, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A blood test using attenuated total reflection (ATR)-Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy can identify patients with brain cancer with high sensitivity and specificity, researchers report.

"This is a simple blood test and can be the first port of call for brain-tumor detection as opposed to directing to medical imaging," Dr. Matthew J. Baker of the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, U.K., told Reuters Health by email.

ATR-FTIR spectroscopy is a nondestructive analytical technique that can characterize the biochemical profile of a sample without extensive sample preparation. It has been used to detect a variety of conditions, including brain tumor, but its primary limitation has been the high cost of the internal reflection element (IRE) used by the spectrometer.

Dr. Baker and colleagues developed disposable IRE sample slides that allow rapid preparation and analysis of multiple samples and applied this high-throughput ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to serum from 724 patients with primary and secondary brain cancers and controls without brain cancer.

On a per-patient basis and averaged over 51 randomized training and test set splits, this approach yielded 93.2% sensitivity and 92.0% specificity for differentiating between patients with cancer and controls without.

The overall accuracy of this approach, as determined by the AUROC, was 96%, the researchers report in Nature Communications, online October 8.

In a prospective clinical validation study of 104 patients, ATR-FTIR differentiated brain cancer patients from controls with 83.3% sensitivity and 87.0% specificity.

Twelve of these patients were found to have cancer, including four glioblastomas, three anaplastic astrocytomas, two oligoastrocytomas, one medulloblastoma, one ependymoma and one gliosarcoma. Some of these tumors were not well represented in the training data set and could be the source of the false-negative predictions.

The researchers propose that the result derived from ATR-FTIR spectroscopy be used not as an absolute diagnostic but as a triage tool that provides the practitioner with additional information to inform their referral decision.

"The GP would order our serum blood test, the blood would be sent to a local center/hospital, and the process would be performed; following that the results would be emailed back to the GP," Dr. Baker said.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/322ZENL

Nat Comm 2019.