New finger-prick test offers early detection of brain cancer


Diagnosis of brain cancer often comes too late to cure it.

People usually seek medical attention only when the cancer has progressed and causes physical symptoms like blurred vision, slurred speech, or lack of balance. At this stage, the average survival time is about a year.

Professor Simon Conn at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer offers hope with his research on earlier detection of brain cancer. With a $200,000 grant from the 2021 SA Discovery Tour and Flinders Foundation, his team is studying circular RNAs and their therapeutic potential as biomarkers for the early detection of brain cancer.

“Once brain cancer is there, it’s often too late. That’s why our approach to detect and diagnose brain cancer as early as possible, is really important,” Prof Conn said.

“It’s a little blood test where you take some blood and you can try and detect these molecules with a very sensitive detection method.”

“Even though you’re removing blood from the arm or the finger, these molecules specific to brain tumours can be detected. But the smaller the tumour, the harder these are to detect so that’s the challenge we’re working to overcome.”

Image: Professor Simon Conn loves the challenges and opportunities of Molecular & Cellular Biology (photo credit: Flinders Foundation)

They aim to develop a finger-prick test to detect brain tumor-specific molecules. Prof. Conn is motivated by the loss of a close friend and a two-year-old to Glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer.

He thanks Tour de Cure and Flinders Foundation for engaging the community and supporting the research. Prof. Conn hopes that his research will lead to better survival rates and lower incidence of brain cancer.

“I really hope, looking back on this research, that it’s something we can hold up and be proud of and it will pave the way for much better survival and, hopefully, lower incidences to begin with.

“Helping just one person would make all the difference, but this research has the capacity to be even more powerful than that.”

Story and image provided by Flinders Foundation.
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