Though surgical biopsies provide direct access to tissue for genomic characterization of brain cancer, they are invasive and pose significant clinical risks. Brain cancer management via blood-based liquid biopsies is a minimally invasive alternative; however, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) restricts the release of brain tumor-derived molecular biomarkers necessary for sensitive diagnosis. Methods: A mouse glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) model was used to demonstrate the capability of focused ultrasound (FUS)-enabled liquid biopsy (sonobiopsy) to improve the diagnostic sensitivity of brain tumor-specific genetic mutations compared with conventional blood-based liquid biopsy. Furthermore, a pig GBM model was developed to characterize the translational implications of sonobiopsy in humans. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided FUS sonication was performed in mice and pigs to locally enhance the BBB permeability of the GBM tumor. Contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MR images were acquired to evaluate the BBB permeability change. Blood was collected immediately after FUS sonication. Droplet digital PCR was used to quantify the levels of brain tumor-specific genetic mutations in the circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Histological staining was performed to evaluate the potential for off-target tissue damage by sonobiopsy. Results: Sonobiopsy improved the detection sensitivity of EGFRvIII from 7.14% to 64.71% and TERT C228T from 14.29% to 45.83% in the mouse GBM model. It also improved the diagnostic sensitivity of EGFRvIII from 28.57% to 100% and TERT C228T from 42.86% to 71.43% in the porcine GBM model. Conclusion: Sonobiopsy disrupts the BBB at the spatially-targeted brain location, releases tumor-derived DNA into the blood circulation, and enables timely collection of ctDNA. Converging evidence from both mouse and pig GBM models strongly supports the clinical translation of sonobiopsy for the minimally invasive, spatiotemporally-controlled, and sensitive molecular characterization of brain cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-378
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Blood-based liquid biopsy
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Droplet digital PCR
  • Glioblastoma mutation
  • Image-guided focused ultrasound


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