A New Method for Detection of Cancer is now available

A New Method for Detection of Cancer is now available

Scientists at the Stanford University have developed a Magnetic Wire which will revolutionize the detection of cancer.

Cancer is a horrific disease which refers to a state where cells grow abnormally with the potential to spread to other parts of the body. One of the major reasons why patients with cancer fail to survive is the late detection of the ailment. Most of its symptoms are common with other diseases and it becomes virtually impossible to detect it without proper tests. Rigorous efforts, on international scale, are being made to look for a method that could help the medical professionals to detect cancer in earlier stages. It will be a massive boost as the chances for survival are significantly high during those phases. A team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found an effective technique that could prove extremely beneficial in this regard.

According to this study, a magnetic wire can be used to snag hard-to-find tumor cells which will offer a quick way of detecting cancer. The wire is threaded into a vein of the patient. Special magnetic nanoparticles trace any tumor cells found inside the bloodstream and magnetize them. These cells are then filtered out from the bloodstream using the magnetic force of the wire. Sam Gambhir, the Chair of Radiology and Director of the Canary Center at the Stanford University who created this revolutionary wire, mentioned that this technique has quite a lot of applications but for now, they are focusing on the detection of cancer. He said,

It could be useful in any other disease in which there are cells or molecules of interest in the blood. For example, let’s say you’re checking for a bacterial infection, circulating tumor DNA or rare cells that are responsible for inflammation in any of these scenarios, the wire and nanoparticles help to enrich the signal, and therefore detect the disease or infection.”

According to researchers, they have tested this method only on pigs till now and the results are extremely promising. It was found that this magnetic wire attracts 10-80 times more cancerous cells than the traditional blood-based cancer-detection methods used these days. Such a massive increment in the efficiency of diagnosis will ensure timely detection of the cancer. Other than that, doctors will also be able to monitor the feedback of a patient to a particular treatment. For instance, if a therapy is doing well, the concentration of cancer cells in the blood will be higher as more and more cells break away from the tumor. The number of these harmful cells must drop down with time as the tumor starts shrinking.

Cancerous cells that travel freely in bloodstream are called Circulating Tumor Cells and their existence in blood indicates the presence of the disease. Having said that, these circulating cells are so less in number that a regular blood test is not sufficient. The reason for this is that only a few millimeters of blood is drawn out for it. It is very much possible that cancerous cells were present in the bloodstream but none of them became a part of the sample. Gambhir talked about that in the following words:

These circulating tumor cells are so few that if you just take a regular blood sample, those test tubes likely won’t even have a single circulating tumor cell in them.  It would be like searching for a grain of sand in a bathtub, but only scooping out a few cups of water. So doctors end up saying, ‘Okay, nothing’s there.’”

Talking about the working mechanism of the wire, the nanoparticles have an extremely important role to play. They have an antibody which latches onto the circulating cancerous cells to magnetize them. This cell-magnet complex starts moving in the bloodstream after this bonding is complete. As soon as it flows past the wire, it is pulled out of its regular path by the magnetic force. After that, the magnetic wire is removed from the body and the tumor cells are extracted for analysis.

Gambhir also mentioned the advantages it can bring in the longer run if things go according to plan. He told the world that this tool will also help the medical professionals to gather information about those tumors that are located in hard-to-biopsy parts of the body. He described the most interesting prospect of this magnetic wire by saying,

If we can get this thing to be really good at sucking up cancer cells, you might consider an application where you leave the wire in longer term. That way it almost acts like a filter that grabs the cancer cells and prevents them from spreading to other parts of the body.”

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