MIT Develops Cancer Monitoring Implant To Get Instant "Lab Results"
Researchers at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT have developed an implant that could take the place of a laboratory when it comes to monitoring the growth, shrinkage, metastasis or drug response of a tumor. The tiny implant would be placed when the initial biopsy is done on the tumor, and then, the device would obviate the need for additional biopsies and time consuming lab work.
How? The tiny implant contains magnetic nanoparticles coated with antibodies that are specific to the molecules they want to attract. Instead of returning to the lab in two weeks or four for another biopsy, which would take at least a few days to return to the doctor's office, you would get a quick MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and your progress would be known immediately. And if your cancer is starting to metasticize, your doctor needs to know right away, not four days away, when something else is going on. No surgery. No waiting.
The MIT team reported the results of its implant, which had tracked a tumor in a mouse for one month. The work is published in the online journal, Biosensors & Bioelectronics in the April issue.
The 5-millimeter implantable device has a semi-permeable membrane made of polyethylene, designed to allow target molecules to enter the device, but to keep the biosensors trapped inside. The sensors can be tailored to collect information on the tumor's response to chemotherapy or other treatments, as well as to collect information on pH levels and oxygen levels, both indicators of the tumor's response to therapy.
Michael Cima, MIT professor of materials science and engineering, who developed the device with his colleagues, said he believes an implant to test for pH levels could be commercially available in a few years, followed by devices to test for complex chemicals such as hormones and drugs.
"What this does is basically take the lab and put it in the patient.... This is one of the tools we're going to need if we're going to turn cancer from a death sentence to a manageable disease," he said.
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