Brain biopsies are performed in one of the following cases: when a tumor is deep in the brain or when an MRI does not confirm if the abnormality is a tumor.
A stereotactic brain biopsy involves making a small incision and inserting a needle through a small hole in the skull. A syringe is used to place suction on the needle and aspirate cells from the abnormality. This allows for a sample of brain tissue to be removed and tested by the pathologists.
While a stereotactic biopsy is common and fairly safe, there are some risks associated with it. There is a risk of a small hemorrhage that could occur at the site of the biopsy. During the procedure, the needle could damage normal brain cells along its path. And lastly, the biopsy could be non-diagnostic.
Liquid biopsy is a promising new technique that is less invasive. By obtaining tumor cells or tumor biomarkers from “biofluids”, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, fluid in the eyeball. The diagnosis may not only be obtained less-invasively, but repeat sampling may occur to detect response to treatment.
Liquid biopsy is a newer technique that shows promise in a less invasive biopsy. Additionally, we know that an individual tumor may have different areas of aggressiveness. A needle biopsy may misrepresent the overall aggressiveness, as it only samples one area of the tumor. A liquid biopsy, theoretically obtains a more representative sample of tumor cells to reflect the overall genetics of the tumor.
Liquid biopsy techniques are still being studied and currently the detection rate is low.
The experts at Rocky Mountain Brain & Spine Institute are not currently performing liquid biopsy. However, we are keenly interested in this new procedure and will continue to follow the results of the promising tumor research to pass along to our patients.