Background: In glioblastoma (GB), tissue is required for accurate diagnosis and subtyping. Tissue can be obtained through resection or (stereotactic) biopsy, but these invasive procedures provide risks for patients. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small, cell-derived vesicles that contain miRNAs, proteins, and lipids, and possible candidates for liquid biopsies. GB-derived EVs can be found in the blood of patients, but it is difficult to distinguish them from circulating non-tumor EVs. 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) is orally administered to GB patients to facilitate tumor visualization and maximal resection, as it is metabolized to fluorescent protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) that accumulates in glioma cells. In this study, we assessed whether PpIX accumulates in GB-derived EVs and whether these EVs could be isolated and characterized to enable a liquid biopsy in GB. Methods: EVs were isolated from the conditioned media of U87 cells treated with 5-ALA by differential ultracentrifugation. Blood samples were collected and processed from healthy controls and patients undergoing 5-ALA guided surgery for GB. High-resolution flow cytometry (hFC) enabled detection and sorting of PpIX-positive EVs, which were subsequently analyzed by digital droplet PCR (ddPCR). Results: PpIX-positive EVs could be detected in conditioned cell culture media as well as in patient samples after administration of 5-ALA. By using hFC, we could sort the PpIX-positive EVs for further analysis with ddPCR, which indicated the presence of EVs and GB-associated miRNAs. Conclusion: GB-derived EVs can be isolated from the plasma of GB patients by using 5-ALA induced fluorescence. Although many challenges remain, our findings show new possibilities for the development of blood-based liquid biopsies in GB patients.

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Department of Neurosurgery

Maas, S., van Solinge, T.S. (Thomas S.), Schnoor, R., Yekula, A. (Anudeep), Senders, J.T. (Joeky T.), Vrij, J., … Broekman, M. (2020). Orally administered 5-aminolevulinic acid for isolation and characterization of circulating tumor-derived extracellular vesicles in glioblastoma patients. Cancers, 12(11), 1–16. doi:10.3390/cancers12113297