According to foreign media, one of the main factors that make cancer so deadly is its ability to spread throughout the body, so it is important for doctors to detect the cancer before it spreads. Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a “cancer trap” that can be implanted just below the skin, rather than taking an invasive process for organ biopsies. In tests on mice, these “traps” captured biomarkers that could tell doctors if they had cancer, whether it was spreading, and so on.
A biopsy involves the extraction and analysis of small tissue samples, an unpleasant but usually necessary procedure for diagnosing cancer or tracking the progression of the disease. For the new study, researchers found a way to bring biomarkers closer to the surface, which is less harmful to biomarkers.
The team created a stand for synthetic biomaterials that would promote tissue growth there. Doctors can then perform biopsies on these new growths to diagnose cancer or check whether existing treatment plans are working.
Lonnie Shea, lead author of the study, said: “Biopsy of organs such as the lungs is a dangerous procedure that can only be done very little. We put these brackets under the skin, so it’s easy to get. “
The stent works by attracting immune cells to the site. Soon, cancer cells (if present in the body) will also begin to gather there. But the team realized that they didn’t have to wait for cancer cells to appear to diagnose the disease.
“When we started, the idea was that we would do a biopsy on the stent and look for tumor cells that followthe immune cells,” Shea said. “But we realized that by analyzing the immune cells that first gathered, we could detect cancer before it spread. “
In tests of mice, the team examined the stents for live tissue and analyzed 635 genes in the cells they captured. They then identified 10 of the genes used as biomarkers, telling them if the mice had cancer and, if so, whether they had begun to spread. The technology can be used for many different types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer.
The device could also be used to monitor patients’ responses to cancer treatment in real time, often requiring multiple biopsies over time, the team said. In other tests, the devices actually slowed the growth of new metastatic tumors by capturing cancer cells in new areas, the researchers said.
In the long run, the team says, these stents can be used to monitor health electronically for longer periods of time. With dedicated sensors and Bluetooth, they can monitor cancer cells and alert patients and doctors when they spot something suspicious without a biopsy.
The study was published in the journal Cancer Research.