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Sensor biochips could aid in cancer diagnosis and treatment
Date:10/21/2009

It is very difficult to predict whether a cancer drug will help an individual patient: only around one third of drugs will work directly in a given patient. Researchers at the Heinz Nixdorf Chair for Medical Electronics at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have developed a new test process for cancer drugs. With the help of microchips, they can establish in the laboratory whether a patient's tumor cells will react to a given drug. This chip could help in future with the rapid identification of the most effective medication for the individual patient.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the Western world. According to the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, approximately 450,000 people develop cancer every year in Germany. Although the doctors who treat cancer have numerous cancer drugs at their disposal today, the treatment must be precisely tailored to the patient and the type of cancer in question to be as effective as possible. If it takes a second or third try to find a drug that works, the patient loses valuable time in which the tumor can continue to grow.

In the future, miniature laboratories could provide the fast help required here. A lab-on-a-chip is a device -- made of glass, for example -- that is just a few millimeters across and has bioelectronic sensors that monitor the vitality of living cells. The chips sit in small wells, known as microtiter plates, and are covered with a patient's tumor cells. A robot changes the culture fluid in each well containing a chip at intervals of just a few minutes. The microsensors on the chip record, among other things, changes in the acid content of the medium and the cells' oxygen consumption; photographs of the process are also taken by a microscope fitted underneath the microtiter plate. All of the data merge in a computer that is connected to the system, and which provides an overview of the metabolic activity of the tumor cells and their vitality.


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Contact: Markus Bernards
presse@zv.tum.de
49-892-892-2562
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert  

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