Experimental Medical Implant Offers Cancer Screening Hope

Yahoo News reports that a new cancer detection device may allow doctors to more effectively treat patients by receiving a detailed picture of the progress being made as the tumor is treated. The news source reports that this developing technology may help patients “avoid the frustration of suffering through painful side effects and lost time only to learn that the treatment wasn't effective.” According to Yahoo, doctors are hoping this promising new technology will replace the traditional biopsy, which provides information that “only tells the doctor what's happening with the tumor in the very moment that it's taken, like a photograph, and tumors are constantly changing and diversifying, especially during treatment.” This technology may be particularly important to aggressive cancers, like mesothelioma, that often do not respond well to treatments. Mesothelioma is a unique form of cancer which develops over a period of two to five decades, finally striking patients quickly when it has developed. That means patients often have a very short treatment window after the diagnosis of this disease, particularly because it is generally found in its later stages. This makes choosing the right treatment particularly important, as patients see an average life expectancy of around four to 18 months. Yahoo News reports that this technology is being developed at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT by Professor Michael Cima and his research team. According to the article, this new technology will allow for the continuous monitoring of tumors. As the Yahoo report explains, “If a biopsy is equal to a photograph, Professor Cima is working on building a video camera.” The actual device used is actually a small implant which fits inside a biopsy needle and is “implanted in the tumor during a routine biopsy, which means it requires no extra procedure or treatment.” This makes the device minimally invasive. Despite its small size, Yahoo explains that “there are thousands of tiny iron nanoparticles trapped inside like leaves in a tea bag.” The device has porous outer walls which then allow bodily fluids to move in and out of it and “when cancer related molecules flow in, the iron nanoparticles cluster around it,” the article explains. Yahoo goes on to explain that these clumps of particles can then be “detected with a non invasive magnetic scan allowing doctors to monitor the tumor over time, letting them know the progress of a patient's treatment and providing doctors with a real-time snapshot of the tumor itself.” According to the report, the researchers are optimistic this new technology will be ready for use six years from now.
Weir, Bill, C. Michael Kim & David Miller. (November 17, 2011) “A New Way to Treat Cancer.” Retrieved on November 18, 2011 from Yahoo News.
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