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UMass Amherst chemists develop nose-like sensor array to 'smell' cancer diagnoses
Date:9/13/2012

AMHERST, Mass. In the fight against cancer, knowing the enemy's exact identity is crucial for diagnosis and treatment, especially in metastatic cancers, those that spread between organs and tissues. Now chemists led by Vincent Rotello at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a rapid, sensitive way to detect microscopic levels of many different metastatic cell types in living tissue. Findings appear in the current issue of the journal ACS Nano.

In a pre-clinical non-small-cell lung cancer metastasis model in mice developed by Frank Jirik and colleagues at the University of Calgary, Rotello's team at UMass Amherst use a sensor array system of gold nanoparticles and proteins to "smell" different cancer types in much the same way our noses identify and remember different odors. The new work builds on Rotello and colleagues' earlier development of a "chemical nose" array of nanoparticles and polymers able to differentiate between normal cells and cancerous ones.

Rotello explains, "With this tool, we can now actually detect and identify metastasized tumor cells in living animal tissue rapidly and effectively using the 'nose' strategy. We were the first group to use this approach in cells, which is relatively straightforward. Now we've done it in tissues and organs, which are very much more complex. With this advance, we're much closer to the promise of a general diagnostic test."

Until now the standard method for precisely identifying cancer cells used a biological receptor approach, a protein binding to a cancer cell wall. Its major drawback is that one must know the appropriate receptor beforehand. Rotello and colleagues' breakthrough is to use an array of gold nanoparticle sensors plus green fluorescent protein (GFP) that activates in response to patterns in the proteins found in cancer cells within minutes, assigning a unique signature to each cancer.

The chemist says, "Smell 'A' generates a pattern i
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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

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