At Brain Tumor Diagnosis

Brain Tumor Biomarker Testing

Now that you’ve been diagnosed, your brain tumor will undergo biomarker testing to identify its molecular makeup. “Biomarker testing” refers to tests that identify genes, proteins, and other substances (called biomarkers) that can provide information about your tumor. You may also hear biomarker testing referred to as “genomic testing/profiling” or “molecular testing/profiling.” Because of innovation and new technology, clinicians can learn a lot about your brain tumor from biomarker testing – and potentially how to treat it and manage growth. This is the next major step in your treatment path.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its classification of Tumor Types of the Central Nervous System. The WHO sponsors a group of pathologists and clinicians who are experts in brain and spinal cord tumors to develop the criteria for how brain tumors are classified and graded. As the scientific field continues to better understand the biology of brain tumors, a separate organization, cIMPACT (the Consortium to Inform Molecular and Practical Approaches to CNS Tumor Taxonomy), periodically reviews and updates new recommendations that guide the WHO’s brain tumor classifications.

These periodic updates make brain tumor classifications more accurate. NBTS has published a blog with more information on what patients need to know about these latest updates. The main takeaway is that, more so than ever before, patients need to understand the molecular makeup of their tumor. This is often accomplished through biomarker testing at your diagnosis hospital. If your medical center does not have the technology to perform biomarker testing, you may consider seeing a brain tumor specialist at a large academic medical center or an NCI Designated Cancer Center.

There are also several companies that perform biomarker testing which your tumor specimens could be sent to for analysis.

Outcomes, clinical characteristics, and response to treatment may differ based on the genetic, or molecular, markers of a tumor.


New clinical trial designs, such as basket and umbrella trials, incorporate biomarkers of a tumor to help identify which patients may be either a good fit for the experimental treatment, or which experimental treatment is best for the patients. Check out the NBTS Clinical Trial Finder to find brain tumor specific trials near you.

In “precision medicine,” patients’ biomarkers are used to assign patients to the arm of the trial with the matching therapy that is expected, as seen in other cancers, to be effective for the subset of patients with that molecular marker.

Biomarker Testing Key Questions:

  • How can I get a sample of my tumor tested for biomarkers to learn if any targeted therapies might treat my tumor type?
  • Which biomarkers should be tested for my tumor type? Can you explain how they might affect my response to therapy and treatment?
  • Is there enough tumor tissue for biomarker testing?
  • Does insurance cover the costs for biomarker testing? If not, is there financial assistance available?
  • How long does it take to get biomarker testing results back?
  • Are there targeted therapy drugs, immunotherapies, or other treatments based on the results of my biomarker tests? If yes, what is this drug or treatment called, and do you recommend it?
  • How can I enroll in a clinical trial?