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A magnetic wire could replace the lottery of cancer blood tests

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Stanford University scientists developed a magnetic wire which doctors can use to detect cancer before symptoms are detected in patients. The device is threaded into a vein, screens for the disease by attracting scarce and hard to capture tumor cells just like a magnet. The wire would be predominantly valuable to detect ‘silent killers’ such as pancreatic, ovarian and kidney cancer where symptoms only seem in the late stages when it has spread too far to treat. The magnetic wire can save thousands of lives by catching the disease at a time when drugs would be effective. Cells that have broken off a tumor to wander the bloodstream easily can assist as cancer biomarkers signaling the presence of the disease.

Dr. Gambhir’s team published the results in Nature Biomedical Engineering which described how using a wire that has magnetic nano-particles engineered to stick to cancerous cells. The original experiment is on pigs, which are structurally alike to humans and suffer from the same genetic malfunctions that cause cancer. The wire captured 10 to 80 times more tumor cells and was placed in a vein near the pig’s ear which can be removed from and the cells can be used for analysis. In real standings it chosen up 500 to 5,000 more cancerous cells than normal blood samples.

The circulating tumor cells were magnetized with nanoparticles containing an antibody that latch onto them. When attached, the cell carries the tiny magnet around with it and flows past the wire to veer from its regular path in the bloodstream and stick to the wire.  Professor Gambhir hopes that this approach will enrich detection capability and give insight how circulating tumor cells are and how early on they exist once the cancer is present. Once the technology is accepted for humans, the goal is to mature it into a multi-pronged tool that will increase detection, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of cancer therapy.

It can also be used to gather genetic information about tumors located in places from where it’s hard to take biopsies.

Source

http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2018/07/magnetized-wire-could-be-used-to-detect-cancer-in-people.html

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