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article imageCatching cancer early via new implant

By Tim Sandle     May 28, 2016 in Health
A "cure" for cancer remains elusive. However, methods to detect cancer early and to administer treatment continue to advance. The latest is a new implant designed to spot cancerous cells before they develop into tumours.
No one who has had cancer is ever "cured." Instead an oncologist will, after a period of five years has elapsed since the cancer was treated, label a patient as "cancer free." This difference, with patients in remission, is because small clusters of cancer cells that are below the detection level can remain in the body. A risk remains that the tiny cluster of cells may undergo metastasis and enter the bloodstream, causing a new round of cancer in a different location. This condition is called “recurrent metastatic cancer.”
Often recurrent metastatic cancer is hard to treat. One way to address this is to detect the presence of the cancer cells earlier, before they develop into a tumour. This would allow cancer cells to be intercepted and treatments administered.
One means to do this is via a special patch, a form of implantable medical device designed to function as both a detector and a metastatic cancer cell trap. Different patches are needed for different patients, which fits in with the extension of 'precision medicine' to cancer, a subject that is currently receiving a lot of attention on Twitter:
Precision medicine for the detection of #cancer can help identify who is at risk & who needs to be s...
Precision medicine for the detection of #cancer can help identify who is at risk & who needs to be screened.
This concept has been advanced at The University of Michigan, working with surgical oncologist Jacqueline Jeruss. Here a tiny porous polymer disc (resembling a sponge) has been developed. The implant is designed to trigger the immune system’s “foreign body response,” and to soak up mobile metastatic cancer cells.
Trials have been conducted on mice, bred to develop breast cancer. The trials showed that the implant was capable of absorbing cancerous cells. The implant was capable of diverting cancer cells away from vital organs. The study revealed that had significantly fewer tumor cells in their organs than implant-free controls.
Furthermore, the implant also aid with detecting cancerous cells through advanced imaging. For this a special imaging method, still under development at Northwestern University, was used. This is called Inverse Spectroscopic Optical Coherence Tomography (ISOCT). The imaging uses a light scattering effect to scan for differences in molecular appearance, to pick out cancerous cells.
The next phases will involve further animal work with the aim of constructing a device to use on human patients. The study will extend out to other types of cancer, to see if the same effects can be seen as with the breast cancer model.
The research, to date, is published in the journal Nature. The study is titled “In vivo capture and label-free detection of early metastatic cells.”
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