A study conducted by Judith Schwartzbaum from the University of Ohio has found that changes in the immune systems appear to signal brain cancer five years before symptoms arise
The study focused on gliomas, which make about 80% of the brain cancer diagnosis. On average gliomas are diagnosed three months after the onset of symptoms and are usually advanced.
"It's important to identify the early stages of tumour development if we hope to intervene more effectively," Schwartzbaum states. "If you understand those early steps, maybe you can design treatments to block further tumour growth."
The proteins that were specifically analysed in the blood were cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that relay information from one immune cell to another.
Schwartzbaum chose to analyse the role of cytokines due to previous work that had found that allergies seemed to offer protection against brain cancer.
Cytokines specifically can play a 'good guy' or villain' role in cancer. They can either fight tumour development or supresses the immune system thus supporting the tumour.
During this project, researchers also discovered a few cytokines that appear to play an important role in glioma development.
Widespread blood testing of those without symptoms is impractical. However this research could allow for new techniques to be discovered that identified brain cancer earlier and therefore allowed for more effective treatment.
"It's possible this could also happen with other tumours - that this is a general sign of tumour development," Schwartzbaum said.
The discovery of these changes in the blood may lead to earlier detection of brain cancers and lead to more effective treatments and lessen devastating effect of these cancers.