Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Brain tumour tests breakthrough

Brain scan
The technique uses molecular profiling of brain tumour samples

A team of Glasgow-based consultants has developed a groundbreaking technique for treating brain tumours.

By molecular profiling a tumour sample, doctors can determine which therapy is likely to give the best results.

Until now it had not been possible to identify whether a patient's tumour would respond best to a course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The technique developed at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital is attracting interest from around the world.

Dr Willie Stewart leads the team at the hospital's Institute of Neurological Sciences.

"This is a hugely important development for the patients in terms of morale," he said.

"Their consultant will be able to tell them for the very outset of treatment which treatment is likely to give them the best result.

"Such positive statement can give a major psychological boost at what is a time of great uncertainty."

'Quality assurance'

Dr Stewart said that tumours have particular molecular signatures - some signatures respond well to chemotherapy, others with radiotherapy.

By establishing the molecular profile of a tumour prior to treatment, Dr Stewart's team are able to identify the best path to take.

While this identification process is carried out in a small number of other UK centres, Dr Stewart said: "The difference is that what we are doing here in Scotland is putting it into routine practice.

"We now routinely receive material from patients from the north of Scotland and several other centres in the UK and Europe.

"We have assisted other centres in setting up their labs and we have been invited to pilot a quality assurance scheme for the UK."

Dr Stewart said the next challenge was to investigate alternatives to current treatments for brain tumours.

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