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A cancer diagnosis in the future may come with the help of a smart phone. Boston researchers have developed a small hand-held device that can be used with a smart phone to determine within about one hour whether a suspicious mass is cancerous or benign. The device would cost about $200 per unit and display its findings on mobile phone monitors.
Scientists from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology said they've developed the world's smallest cancer diagnostic system. The size of a traditional desk telephone, the system uses antibodies and magnetic particles to seek out and flag cancer in cells, which are extracted with a needle, rather than large amounts of surgically removed tissue. The system is described in Feb. 23, 2011 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The authors said they developed a quantitative micro-NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) system for rapid, multiplexed analysis of human tumors. The technology was tested in a clinical setting to analyze cells obtained by fine needle aspiration from suspicious lesions in 50 patients. Another 20 patients were used in the study as independent cohorts.
The single fine-needle aspirates yielded sufficient numbers of cells to enable quantification of multiple protein markers in all patients within 60 minutes. Moreover, using a four-protein signature, the authors reported a 96 percent accuracy for establishing a cancer diagnosis, surpassing conventional clinical analyses by immunohistochemistry.
Patients today must schedule a doctor's appointment, schedule a biopsy, and then wait several days to get results. The researchers believe the device could eliminate that long waiting period for many patients, cut down on repeat biopsies and also reduce costs.
The device may have additional patient benefits. Further testing will be done to determine if it can be used to show whether patients are responding to treatment by measuring the levels of specific proteins in their blood.