A new and highly effective method in detecting tiny tumors and tracking their spread has now been invented. This new method has the potential to detect cancer earlier, and also help with a more precise treatment.
Using light-emitting nanoprobes, the researchers are hopeful that this could lead to improvement of patient cure rates and survival times. Prabhas V. Moghe, an author of the study and distinguished professor of and chemical and biochemical engineering at Rutgers-New Brunswick, said in a statement:
“We’ve always had this dream that we can track the progression of cancer in real time, and that’s what we’ve done here.
“We’ve tracked the disease in its very incipient stages.”
The study, which was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, proves the new method is superior to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and any other current cancer surveillance technologies. Dr. Steven K. Libutti, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, explains that:
“The Achilles’ heel of surgical management for cancer is the presence of micro metastases. This is also a problem for proper staging or treatment planning.
“The nanoprobes described in this paper will go a long way to solving these problems.”
Because most imaging methods fail in identifying small cancerous lesions, the ability to see early tumors that are starting to spread remains the major challenge in cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, in this study, researchers were able to detect tiny tumors in mice that were injected with the nanoprobes.
The nanoprobes are microscopic optical devices, and as they travel through the bloodstream, they emit short-wave infrared light. This gives the researchers the ability to track tiny tumors in multiple organs.
Vidya Ganapathy, an author to the study, explains that the nanoprobes were considerably faster than MRIs at identifying the spread of tiny lesions and tumors in the adrenal glands and bones in mice.
Ganapathy believes this potentially could result in saving more lives, as the new method could detect tiny lesions and tumors month’s earlier in people than the old methods. Ganapathy explains that:
“Cancer cells can lodge in different niches in the body, and the probe follows the spreading cells wherever they go.
“You can treat the tumors intelligently because now you know the address of the cancer.”
Using the new technology doctors will have the ability to detect and track the 100-plus types of cancer. Moghe explained that by watching lesions in multiple organs in real-time should lead to more accurate pre- and post-therapy monitoring of cancer, saying:
“You can potentially determine the stage of the cancer and then figure out what’s the right approach for a particular patient.”
The researchers believe that the new technology could be available within five years. They also think the use of nanoprobes in the future may vary from surgeons using it to mark tissues that needed to be removed, to tracking the effectiveness of immunotherapy, including stimulating the immune system, to fight cancer cells.
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