These breast cancer cells leave
traces; © NCI Visuals Online
The research team led by Newcastle University aims to produce a hand-held device which would enable samples of blood, smear or biopsy to be tested quickly and accurately, for signs of cancer of the breast, cervix, colon or rectum. The device would identify 'cancer specific markers' - proteins or other molecules produced by cancer cells - which vary according to the type of cancer and are distinct from proteins produced by healthy cells.
The researchers have manufactured discs less than one-tenth of a millimetre in diameter and coated them with special patterns of DNA or proteins which cause the cancer-specific markers to bind to the surface. The discs are created in a silicon wafer and made to vibrate electronically in two modes. When a cancer-specific marker binds to the surface of a disc, in the pattern of the coating, the uneven weight causes one of the modes of vibration to change in frequency. The difference between the frequencies of the two modes of vibration is measured, enabling the detection of tiny amounts of cancer specific marker. In theory, even the weight of a single molecule binding to the surface of a disc could be detected.
Professor Calum McNeil, of the School of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences at Newcastle University, who is leading the project, said: 'We are confident that this new technology has the potential to improve the prospects of successful treatment for these cancers'.
COMPAMED.de; Source: University of Newcastle upon Tyne