Catching Brain Tumors Early

An estimated 14,320 people are expected to die in 2014 from brain and other nervous system cancer. From 2004 to 2010, only 33.4% of people diagnosed with brain of other nervous system cancer survived five of more years after being diagnosed. From 2001 to 2010, death rates remained stable, indicating that there is still not a universal method of detecting brain tumors early on. 76% of diagnoses catch the brain or nervous system cancer when it is at the localized stage and only 36.6% of patients in the position live for 5 or more years after diagnosis.

Due to these statistics, I have decided to propose a solution to detect the growth of cancerous nerve cells in a simple and easy manner. To get there, the first step is to find what specific protein or hormone all cancerous nerve cells secrete or if  they release a higher or lower level of a certain protein/hormone that is secreted by all neurons. The apparatus I imagine is able to detect, identify, and measure the concentration of nearly every known protein/hormone in a given culture of cells. It has a bank of all this data imbedded into its system.

A biopsy would be done on a mammal, preferably a human or mouse, and their normally functioning neurons would be cultured outside of their body. The machine would then collect fluid from the extracellular matrix and run an analysis of all the proteins and hormones present and their concentrations. This process would be repeated at least thirty times in order to decrease the variance. This way, we can make a safer assumption about the whole population.

A biopsy of cancerous nerve cells would be done on a mammal preferably a human or a mouse, and their cancer cells would be cultured outside their body. Like with the normal cells, the machine would collect fluid from the extracellular matrix of the cancerous neurons and run an analysis of all the proteins and hormones present and the concentrations of each. This process would be repeated at least thirty times for the same reason mentioned before.

A comparative analysis would be done by scientists of the levels of all the proteins and hormones detected from the ECM of each type of culture (noncancerous vs. cancerous). Of the proteins and hormones present in both groups, if any particular ones are identified as being present with a concentration in the cancerous cell that is statistically different (t-test) from the concentration in the normal cells, this protein or hormone should be noted. If there is a protein or hormone that is consistently present in the ECM of the cancerous neurons that isn’t present in the ECM of normal neurons, this protein/hormone should be noted as well.

It would be decided by a group of scientists which protein(s) or hormone(s) is/are selected as a universal indicator(s) of the growth of cancerous cells in the nervous system, whether it be one that is in secreted in different levels by cancer cells or one that is secreted by cancer cells only.

Starting in early childhood, an individual will undergo a blood test and an MRI to record a baseline for the protein/hormone indicative of cancer of the nervous system. The blood will be tested for presence and concentration of the decided-upons protein(s) or hormone(s). For the rest of the individual’s life, their blood will be drawn and tested twice a year. If an abnormal level is detected, an MRI will be done to look for tumor growth. Hopefully, this would increase the percentage of patients with cancer of the nervous system that are diagnosed when the tumor is very small and easily extractable.

I anticipate this kind of technology to exist within the next fifteen years as more proteins and hormones are discovered.

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2 responses to “Catching Brain Tumors Early”

  1. Whitney Grace Wilson says:

    I am actually very interested in going in to oncology, so this is a fantastic thing to see on here. I do want to say that being able to test with just a few drops of blood would be a lot easier on a patient than having their blood drawn. A prick on the finger is a lot less than having to puncture a vein.
    This would involve having much more developed technology to be able to sense the hormones and proteins within a mere few drops of blood though.

  2. Carlos Aizenman says:

    That’s a great idea for early screening. One could even envision creating iPSCs from a patient and inducing them to become neurons and then seeing if these neurons secrete more of a specific marker associated with brain cancers and then use this information to place a patient in a higher or lower risk category.

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