The coming of age of liquid biopsy in neuro-oncology

Brain. 2023 Oct 3;146(10):4015-4024. doi: 10.1093/brain/awad195.


The clinical role of liquid biopsy in oncology is growing significantly. In gliomas and other brain tumours, targeted sequencing of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from CSF may help differential diagnosis when surgery is not recommended and be more representative of tumour heterogeneity than surgical specimens, unveiling targetable genetic alterations. Given the invasive nature of lumbar puncture to obtain CSF, the quantitative analysis of cfDNA in plasma is a lively option for patient follow-up. Confounding factors may be represented by cfDNA variations due to concomitant pathologies (inflammatory diseases, seizures) or clonal haematopoiesis. Pilot studies suggest that methylome analysis of cfDNA from plasma and temporary opening of the blood-brain barrier by ultrasound have the potential to overcome some of these limitations. Together with this, an increased understanding of mechanisms modulating the shedding of cfDNA by the tumour may help to decrypt the meaning of cfDNA kinetics in blood or CSF.

Keywords: brain tumours; cell-free DNA; liquid biopsy; methylome; targeted sequencing.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liquid Biopsy
  • Mutation / genetics


  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids