Biomarkers and focused ultrasound: the future of liquid biopsy for brain tumor patients

Jordina Rincon-Torroella, Harmon Khela, Anya Bettegowda, Chetan Bettegowda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Despite advances in modern medicine, brain tumor patients are still monitored purely by clinical evaluation and imaging. Traditionally, invasive strategies such as open or stereotactic biopsies have been used to confirm the etiology of clinical and imaging changes. Liquid biopsies can enable physicians to noninvasively analyze the evolution of a tumor and a patient’s response to specific treatments. However, as a consequence of biology and the current limitations in detection methods, no blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) brain tumor-derived biomarkers are used in routine clinical practice. Enhancing the presence of tumor biomarkers in blood and CSF via brain-blood barrier (BBB) disruption with MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a very compelling strategy for future management of brain tumor patients. Methods: A literature review on MRgFUS-enabled brain tumor liquid biopsy was performed using Medline/Pubmed databases and clinical trial registries. Results: The therapeutic applications of MRgFUS to target brain tumors have been under intense investigation. At high-intensity, MRgFUS can ablate brain tumors and target tissues, which needs to be balanced with the increased risk for damage to surrounding normal structures. At lower-intensity and pulsed-frequency, MRgFUS may be able to disrupt the BBB transiently. Thus, while facilitating intratumoral or parenchymal access to standard or novel therapeutics, BBB disruption with MRgFUS has opened the possibility of enhanced detection of brain tumor-derived biomarkers. Conclusions: In this review, we describe the concept of MRgFUS-enabled brain tumor liquid biopsy and present the available preclinical evidence, ongoing clinical trials, limitations, and future directions of this application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-48
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neuro-oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Biomarkers
  • Focused Ultrasound
  • Gliomas
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cancer Research


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