New diagnostics

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Investigation of diagnostic tests for detecting and monitoring brain tumors

At the moment, we make the definitive diagnosis of a glioma only after examination of tumor tissue obtained through surgery. Measuring treatment effects is also very difficult, because it is sometimes difficult to interpret the imaging via MRI. So we have a great need for new testing methods that make all this easier.

Within the Brain Tumor Center we conduct research into such new forms of diagnostics. Within the Neurosurgery Lab, for example, we investigate, in collaboration with the Immunology Department, the body's 'clean-up cells' (macrophages). The macrophages in the tissue, called TiMas, appear to be able to return to the bloodstream. By examining their content for glioma-specific proteins (TiMaScan), we can detect the presence of a glioma in the brain with a small amount of blood.

Another approach is to analyze so-called "microvesicles" in the blood. These are small blisters that are secreted by the tumor. We conduct this research in collaboration with the UMCU.

In blood we can also find fragments of the DNA and RNA of the tumor. Within the Neurology department we are conducting research into new measurement methods for these fragments. In addition, we identify proteins that are upregulated in CSF from brain tumor patients by mass spectrometry. We determine whether these proteins have value as a biomarker. For this we use a biobank with CSF and plasma samples from brain tumor patients.

With these studies, we hope in the future to develop a simple blood test that will allow diagnosis without surgery and that we can use to measure treatment effects.