Strategies, considerations, and recent advancements in the development of liquid biopsy for glioblastoma

Neurosurg Focus 53 (6):E14, 2022

Glioblastoma (GBM) is a devasting primary brain tumor with less than a 5% 5-year survival. Treatment response assessment can be challenging because of inflammatory pseudoprogression that mimics true tumor progression clinically and on imaging. Developing additional noninvasive assays is critical. In this article, the authors review various biomarkers that could be used in developing liquid biopsies for GBM, along with strengths, limitations, and future applications. In addition, they present a potential liquid biopsy design based on the use of an extracellular vesicle–based liquid biopsy targeting nonneoplastic extracellular vesicles.

METHODS The authors conducted a current literature review of liquid biopsy in GBM by searching the PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases. Articles were assessed for type of biomarker, isolation methodology, analytical techniques, and clinical relevance.

RESULTS Recent work has shown that liquid biopsies of plasma, blood, and/or CSF hold promise as noninvasive clinical tools that can be used to diagnose recurrence, assess treatment response, and predict patient outcomes in GBM. Liquid biopsy in GBM has focused primarily on extracellular vesicles, cell-free tumor nucleic acids, and whole-cell isolates as focal biomarkers. GBM tumor signatures have been generated via analysis of tumor gene mutations, unique RNA expression, and metabolic and proteomic alterations. Liquid biopsies capture tumor heterogeneity, identifying alterations in GBM tumors that may be undetectable via surgical biopsy specimens. Finally, biomarker burden can be used to assess treatment response and recurrence in GBM.

CONCLUSIONS Liquid biopsy offers a promising avenue for monitoring treatment response and recurrence in GBM without invasive procedures. Although additional steps must be taken to bring liquid biopsy into the clinic, proof-of-principle studies and isolation methodologies are promising. Ultimately, CSF and/or plasma-based liquid biopsy is likely to be a powerful tool in the neurosurgeon’s arsenal in the near future for the treatment and management of GBM patients.