A prototype wearable device has been developed by a team of engineers and scientists, which would be helping in diagnosing and treating cancer. The wearable device can repeatedly collect live cancer cells directly from the patient’s blood and there’s no need for any biopsy.
Tumours can release over 1000 cancer cells into the bloodstream in a single minute. The present method of capturing cancer cells from blood depend on sampled from the patient, normally no more than a tablespoon taken during a single draw.
The device has been developed at the University of Michigan, in order to treat cancer more effectively.
Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., the Stuart B. Padnos Professor of Breast Cancer Research at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and senior author on the paper in Nature Communications stated that nobody loves to go through a biopsy. If enough cancer cells from the blood could be obtained, it could use them to learn about tumour biology and direct care can be provided to the patients.
Even blood draws from patients suffering from advanced cancer don’t have any cancer cells. The typical sample contains no more than 10 cancer cells.
The wearable device can be used for over a couple of hours in the hospital. The device has been designed in such a way that it can capture cancer cells directly from the vein; thereby, able to screen a much large volume of patient’s blood. In animal tests, the cell-grasping chip in the wearable device was able to catch 3.5 times as many cancer cells per millilitre of blood as it did in running samples collected by blood draw.
Sunitha Nagrath, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering at U-M and who led the development of the device stated that it’s the difference between having a security camera which takes a snapshot of a door after every 5 minutes or takes a video.
Research indicated that most cancer cells aren’t able to survive in the bloodstream, but those that do are more probably to start a new tumour. Typically, it is these satellite tumours, called metastases, which are deadly, instead of the original tumour. This means cancer cells captured from blood could provide better information for planning treatments than those from a conventional biopsy.