A team led by Stanford researchers has developed a prototype blood scanner that can find cancer markers in the bloodstream in early stages of the disease, potentially allowing for earlier treatment and dramatically improved chances of survival.
The system based on MagArray biodetection chips can find cancer-associated proteins in a blood serum sample in less than an hour, and with much greater sensitivity than existing commercial devices. In fact, the device, which uses magnetic nanotechnology to spot the cancer proteins, is tens to hundreds of times more sensitive, meaning the proteins can be found while there are relatively few of them in the bloodstream. The researchers reported their results in the Dec. 1 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"This is essentially a proof-of-concept study showing that now we have a chip and a reader that can find multiple biomarkers in a sample at a concentration much lower than the standard that is commercially available," said Shan Wang, a Stanford professor of materials science and of electrical engineering.
Wang is optimistic that the technology will someday save lives by detecting cancer early or by helping doctors select more effective therapy. "The earlier you can detect a cancer, the better chance you have to kill it," he said. "This could be especially helpful for lung cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer, because those cancers are hidden in the body."
Wang is a senior author of the paper, along with Stanford biochemistry and genetics Professor Ronald W. Davis of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, and UC Santa Cruz biomolecular engineering Professor Nader Pourmand.
The detector is able to detect many different kinds of proteins at the same time, which is important for two reasons, Wang said. First, researchers are still uncertain which cancer biomarkers are the best diagnostic indicators. Secondly, det
|Contact: David Orenstein|