5 Early Cancer Detection Techniques

According to World Health Organisation, Cancer accounted for 8.2 million deaths in 2012. Late detection is the most common reason for these deaths as medicines and chemotherapy are ineffective at this stage. Here are 5 upcoming techniques that can facilitate early cancer detection:

1. MARIA: Detecting breast cancer in 8 seconds

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women aged 35 and 55 in many countries. And most tumors are not discovered early enough – particularly in younger women.

Scientists at Micrima are developing a breast cancer detection technology called MARIA (Multistatic Array processing for Radiowave Image Acquisition) using radio waves. The radio wave scanner reduces the risk of radiation compared to traditional X-ray mammograms. This should encourage women under 50 to take the test since exposure to radiation is a big concern. Detection time is also reduced from at least a minute to less than eight seconds. Additionally, dense breast tissue makes it harder for X-rays to detect tumors but radio waves make it easier to find problems.

How it works:
The MARIA imaging system is based on the anti-landmine technology used by the military to locate non-metallic explosives in the soil. Working on the same principle, the MARIA system can find dangerous ‘hot spots’ indicating the presence of a tumor and transfer the data to a computer within eight seconds to produce a 3D image.

cancer maria

2. Na-Nose: Sniffing out cancer

Hossam Haick has developed Na-Nose to avoid expensive and invasive operations. Using nanotechnology, this electronic nose can detect specific patterns of compounds that indicate presence of cancer, such as benzene, octane, pentane and isoprene. Post detection of malignancy through imaging tests, all the patient has to do is blow up a balloon. The doctors can then simply analyse the air.

Although not the first of its kind, Na-Nose is 1,000 times more sensitive than other breath tests, thanks to its unique nanoparticle sensors.

How it works:
The device mimics the dogs ability to smell cancerous cells, detecting those tiny particles that are exhaled through breath. The collected air is subjected to pass through a series of extremely sensitive nanotech sensors. The secret of the Na-Nose lies in a row of sub-microscopic (nanoparticle) gold sensors, which can detect tiny molecular changes that occur in the blood of cancer patients. The device can differentiate between early and advanced stage cases and also distinguish between different types of cancer including lung, breast, colorectal, prostate, head and neck.

Watch the video below that could allow doctors to sniff out cancer in the future:

3. MIT’s Paper test: A cheap alternative for cancer diagnosis

MIT engineers led by Sangeeta Bhatia have developed a simple and cheap paper test kit to detect the presence of cancer cells using a urine sample. These test kits work on the same principle used by pregnancy kits, detecting proteins associated with cancer.

Image Courtesy: Koch Institute For Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

How it works:
Bhatia and her team have designed nanoparticles that can trigger the release of hundreds of biomarkers. These biomarkers can easily be detected in a patient’s urine. This paper test can be performed on unprocessed samples, without the need for any specialized equipment.

4. CTChip: Fluid dynamic to identify CTCs

Metastasis is the leading cause of death among cancer patients, where the cancer spreads to other organs. Circulating tumor cell (CTC) are the primarily responsible for Metastasis. CTCs, however, are extremely hard to detect. Clearbridge BioMedics, a Singapore based firm has released a new device ‘ClearCell FX system’ that can detect the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs).

How it works:
The CTCs that spill out of the malignant tumor and flow into the bloodstream are larger and have a greater density compared to normal cells. The system isolates cells in a blood sample allowing for continuous separation of CTCs from blood cells.

Get an inside look into the working of ClearCell Fx system:

5. MINERVA: mid-IR imaging spectroscopy

The MINERVA project has been conceived by thirteen European companies to improve early cancer detection using photonic technology. The MINERVA project, building on the mid-IR technology, captures diagnostic images of unstained tissues and cells in a matter of seconds and provides clever data analysis.

How it works:
It uses a source of light called the super-continuum to focus on the tissue sample to be tested. At first it looks at reflective wavelengths of light and identifies which biochemicals are present such proteins, DNA and collagen. The next step involves the same reflective light to look at how these biochemicals are distributed in the sample. Using the data derived from these steps scientists can map the distribution of different molecules and computer programs can search and identify patterns that have known link with cancer.

Watch the video below to learn more about this painless and quick method of cancer diagnosis:

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