Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for brain tumor detection: clinical roles and current progress

Am J Transl Res. 2020 Apr 15;12(4):1379-1396. eCollection 2020.


Brain tumors include those that originate within the brain (primary tumors) as well as those that arise from other cancers (metastatic tumors). The fragile nature of the brain poses a major challenge to access focal malignancies, which certainly limits both diagnostics and therapeutic approaches. This limitation has been alleviated with the advent of liquid biopsy technologies. Liquid biopsy represents a highly convenient, fast and non-invasive method, which allows multiple sampling and dynamic pathological detection. Biomarkers derived from liquid biopsies can promptly reflect changes on the gene expression profiling of tumors. Biomarkers derived from tumor cells contain abundant genetic information, which may provide a strong basis for the diagnosis and the individualized treatment of brain tumor patients. A series of body fluids can be assessed for liquid biopsy, including peripheral blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), urine or saliva. Interestingly, the sensitivity and specificity of biomarkers from the CSF of patients with brain tumors is typically higher than those detected in the peripheral blood and other sources. Hence, here we describe and properly discuss the clinical roles of distinct classes of CSF biomarkers, isolated from patients with brain tumors, such as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), microRNA (miRNA), proteins, and extracellular vesicles (EVs).

Keywords: Liquid biopsy; biomarkers; brain tumor; cerebrospinal fluid.

Publication types

  • Review