Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Americans today. But now researchers have come up with a hot new technology that might be able to scoop up the cancer cells in any person’s body.
BBC news reports on the exciting new treatment. A new sponge like implant might be able to mop up all the cancer cells in your body as it moves through it.
“It is hoped the device could act as an early warning system in patients, alerting doctors to cancer spread. The implant also seemed to stop rogue cancer cells reaching other areas where new tumours could grow,” according to BBC news.
Many researchers are excited about this new product. The official findings and report for this new study have been published in Nature Communications.
Researching bodies such as Cancer Research UK recently said that nine in ten cancer deaths were caused by the disease spreading to other areas of a person’s body.
The little sponge is only about 5mm in diameter and made of a ‘biomaterial’ already approved for utilization in medical devices, the implant has so far been tested in mice that had breast cancer.
Researchers said that the implant mimicked a routine where cells broken apart from a tumor were attracted to other areas in the body by immune cells. BBC explains, “They found that these immune cells set up camp on the implant - a natural reaction to any foreign body - drawing the cancer cells in. Initially, the researchers labeled cancer cells so they would light up and be easily spotted.”
However they then evolved the approach more and moved on to a special imaging technique that can distinguish between cancerous and normal cells, and found they could detect cancer cells that had been found or stuck in the implant.
Researchers were surprised to find that when they measured cancer cells that had spread in mice with and without the implant, they found that the device not only captured cancer cells, it decreased the numbers present at other sites in the body.
Experts have long been searching for ways to find the spread, or metastasis, of cancer at an early stage, but cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream are rare and difficult to locate.
Professor Lonnie Shea, from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, led the study. He said they were planning the first clinical trials in humans quite soon.
Professor Shea said, “We need to see if metastatic cells will show up in the implant in humans like they did in the mice, and also if it's a safe procedure and that we can use the same imaging to detect cancer cells.”
Lucy Holmes, Cancer Research UK's science information manager also commented on the study. She said, “We urgently need new ways to stop cancer in its tracks. So far this implant approach has only been tested in mice, but it's encouraging to see these results, which could one day play a role in stopping cancer spread in patients.”