The findings of a study recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces show that regular urine tests can help diagnose and treat brain tumors early and possibly improve patient survival.
Timely detection of brain tumors is often difficult, in part because most people undergo CT scans or brain MRIs only after the onset of neurological defects such as limb immobilization and inability to speak. When brain tumors are detected by CT scan or MRI, in many cases, they are already so large that they cannot be completely removed, and this can reduce the patient’s survival rate. From this point of view, accurate, easy and cheap methods of early detection of tumors are in great demand.
Recently, microRNAs (small molecules of nucleic acid) have received much attention as a diagnostic marker for cancerous tumors. MicroRNAs are secreted from various cells and are present in stable and undamaged conditions within extracellular vesicles in biological fluids such as blood and urine. Researchers at the University of Nagoya focused on microRNAs as markers of brain tumors. Atsushi Natsume, An associate professor at the University of Nagoya and one of the authors of the article says:
Urine is collected easily and without putting pressure on the human body. Urine-based fluid biopsy for patients with brain tumors has not been fully investigated because none of the usual methods can extract microRNAs from urine efficiently in terms of types and amounts. So we decided to build a device that could do that.
According to Science Daily, the new device of researchers at the University of Nagoya is equipped with 100 million nanowires of zinc oxide that can be sterilized and can be mass-produced and therefore suitable for use in real medical applications. This device can extract significant types and amounts of microRNAs from just one milliliter of urine compared to conventional methods. Researchers’ analysis of microRNAs in the urine of patients with brain tumors and non-cancerous individuals showed that many microRNAs from brain tumors are stable in the urine.
Next, the researchers used their diagnostic model based on the expression of microRNAs in the urine samples of patients with brain tumors and noncancerous individuals to examine whether urinary microRNAs could be used as markers for brain tumors. The results showed that their model could differentiate patients from non-cancerous individuals with 100% sensitivity and 97% specificity, regardless of malignancy and tumor size. Accordingly, the researchers concluded that the microRNAs in the urine are promising indicators of brain tumors.
The researchers hope their findings will help in the early detection of invasive brain cancers, such as glioblastoma and other cancers. “In the future, with a combination of artificial intelligence and telemedicine, people will be able to find out about cancer, while doctors will be able to detect patients with cancer with just a small amount of daily urine,” says Dr. Natsome.