AI blood test can spot signs of brain tumor to speed up diagnosis

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Chemical analysis of blood samples, combined with an Artificial Intelligence program, could speed up the diagnosis of brain tumours, according to research presented at the 2019 NCRI Cancer Conference.

Brain tumours tend to have ambiguous symptoms, such as headache or memory problems, and a brain scan is currently the only reliable way of diagnosing them.

Researchers say their test, which works by detecting chemical clues shed by brain tumours into the blood, could help improve brain tumour survival by making diagnosis quicker and more efficient.

Dr Paul Brennan, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh, UK, said: “Brain tumours reduce life expectancy by an average of 20 years. That’s the highest of any cancer.

“We know that 62% of patients are diagnosed in the emergency department, even though they may have seen their GP several times beforehand. This is because diagnosing brain tumours is so difficult. A headache could be a sign of a brain tumour, but it is more likely to be something else and it’s not practical to send lots of people for a brain scan, just in case it’s a tumour. The challenge is identifying who to prioritise for an urgent scan.”

Dr Brennan has worked with Dr Matthew Baker, reader in chemistry at the University of Strathclyde, UK, and chief scientific officer at ClinSpec Diagnostics Ltd to develop a test to help doctors to quickly and efficiently find those patients who are most likely to have a brain tumour.

The test relies on an existing technique, called infrared spectroscopy, to examine the chemical makeup of a person’s blood, combined with an AI program that can spot

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