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Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

A recent Penn Medicine study has shown that a blood test can predict prognosis in brain cancer,  Penn Medicine News reported.

The blood test measures the amount of cell-free DNA, or cfDNA, in the bloodstream, according to Penn Medicine News. Cancer cells and other cells shed cfDNA into the bloodstream. The researchers studied patients with glioblastoma, the most common and deadliest brain tumor, and found that those with higher bloodstream concentrations of cfDNA had a shorter "progression-free survival" than patients with less cfDNA. 

The study, published Oct. 30 in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, was led by Perelman School of Medicine Hematology-Oncology professor Stephen Bagley. Medicine professor Erica Carpenter served as senior author. 

The study included 42 glioblastoma patients who received blood tests following diagnosis, before surgery, and at regular intervals during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Those patients with lower concentrations of cfDNA before surgery had almost double the progression-free survival compared to patients with higher concentrations. The researchers also found that the blood test can be used to detect genetic mutations that are different from those detected through solid-tissue biopsies, providing more information about the genetic makeup of tumors.

The researchers said that while the current study only looked at a small group of patients, they have enrolled more subjects and hope to expand it to a larger analysis. They also plan to sequence different samples of tumor DNA to learn about the full molecular profile of each.

"If our findings are validated by further studies, it would mean that these patients may be able to get a simple blood test that would give us a more accurate assessment than imaging of whether their disease has progressed or not, as well as more data on the mutations in their tumors,” Bagley told Penn Medicine News.