A new cancer diagnosis technique, developed by Dr Majid Warkiani, from the University of New South Wales, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, could one day be used to detect and remove a tiny handful of cancer-spreading cells from among the billions of healthy cells in a small blood sample.
The initial challenge in developing the early-warning diagnosis system was to find those few cancer cells amongst billions of healthy blood cells. That challenge was met by a system that ‘spins out’ and isolates circulating tumour cells, which are shed into the bloodstream from a solid tumour and can establish tumours elsewhere in the body – the mechanism by which cancer spreads through the body.
The ‘liquid biopsy’ can thus be used both for early cancer diagnosis and for monitoring a patient’s response to treatment. But the potential for the new system goes far beyond just diagnosis.
If the filtering system could be scaled up, a cancer patient’s entire blood supply could potentially be similarly filtered, removing the dangerous cells and cycling the rest of the patient’s blood back into their system. It would be similar to dialysis treatment for kidney patients.
The potentially revolutionary system, which works to diagnose cancer at a tenth of the cost of competing technologies, is now in clinical trials in the US, UK and Australia, and is in the process of being commercialised by Clearbridge BioMedics.
“There is still a long way to go – including securing money and support in Australia – before this is possible,” said Dr. Warkiani.
Read more here: University of New South Wales.