"This is a new idea to create an excreted biomarker instead of relying on what the body gives you," she says. "To prove this approach is really going to be a useful diagnostic, the next step is to test it in patient populations."
To help make that happen, the research team recently won a grant from MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation to develop a business plan for a startup that could work on commercializing the technology and performing clinical trials.
Bhatia says the technology would likely first be applied to high-risk populations, such as people who have had cancer previously, or had a family member with the disease. Eventually, she would like to see it used for early detection throughout developing nations.
Such technology might also prove useful in the United States, and other countries where more advanced diagnostics are available, as a simple and inexpensive alternative to imaging. "I think it would be great to bring it back to this setting, where point-of-care, image-free cancer detection, whether it's in your home or in a pharmacy clinic, could really be transformative," Bhatia says.
With the current version of the technology, patients would first receive an injection of the nanoparticles, then urinate onto the paper test strip. To make the process more convenient, the researchers are now working on a nanoparticle formulation that could be implanted under the skin for longer-term monitoring.
The team is also working to identify signatures of MMPs that could be exploited as biomarkers for other types of cancer, as well as for tumors that have metastasized.
|Contact: Sarah McDonnell|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology