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Biomarker Testing

As part of the diagnosis and classification of brain tumors, biopsied samples or surgically resected portions of a tumor may undergo a process called biomarker testing.

Molecular biomarkers are genes, proteins, and other biological information that can provide details about brain tumors. Biomarker testing can also be referred to as “tumor testing,” “genomic testing,” “genomic profiling,” “molecular testing,” and “molecular profiling.” Because of innovation and new technology, health care teams can learn a lot about brain tumors from biomarker testing, including accurate diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options.

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 published a blog post 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, which is often accomplished through biomarker testing at the patient’s diagnosis hospital. If their medical center does not have the technology to perform biomarker testing, the patient may consider seeing a brain tumor specialist at a large academic medical center or an NCI-Designated Cancer Center.

Several companies also perform biomarker testing, enabling a patient’s tumor sample to be sent in for analysis.

The results of biomarker testing can provide information about diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plans.

Biomarkers and Clinical Trials

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 biomarker. New clinical trial designs, such as “basket,” “platform,” and “umbrella” trials, incorporate biomarkers of a tumor to help identify which patients may be a good fit for the experimental treatment or which experimental treatment is best for the patients.

Clinical Trial Finder

T​he NBTS Clinical Trial Finder is an easy way to search for a local trial treatment for your specific tumor type. Increased participation in clinical trials helps facilitate brain tumor research and accelerate the development of new drugs and treatments for patients.

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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?

More Resources

Brain Tumor Glossary

Clinical Trial Finder

Symptom Tracker

Medication & Supplement Tracker

Additional Resources for Patients and Caregivers

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