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Speed Bumps May Reduce the Spread of Cancer Cells

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spread of cancer cells may be reduced by speed bumps iStockphoto/Thinkstock

“It could be used to detect the handful of circulating tumor cells that have managed to survive among billions of normal blood cells. This could save millions of lives.”

Although some types of metastatic cancer can be cured with current treatments, most can’t. Available treatments are typically used to control the growth of the cancer or relieve symptoms causes by it.

In some cases, metastatic cancer treatments may help prolong life, but sadly most people who die of cancer succumb from metastatic disease, according to NCI.

Jorge Bernate explains that as different particles are driven over these diagonal speed bumps, heavier ones have a harder time getting over than the lighter ones.

When the particles cannot get over the ramp, they begin to change course and travel diagonally along the length of the obstacle. As the process continues, particles end up fanning out in different directions.

"After the particles cross this section of the 'highway'," Bernate said, "they end up in different 'lanes' and can take different 'exits,' which allows for their continuous separation." The cancerous cells could then be targeted for elimination.

To see for yourself how the “road bumps” work, watch this short video.

The research, funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, was published in the May 25 online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and scuba enthusiast living in San Diego, CA with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.


Metastatic Cancer Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. Access online at:

”Stochastic and Deterministic Vector Chromatography of Suspended Particles in 1D-Periodic Potentials”. Physical Review Letters. JA Bernate, and G Drazer. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.214501 Abstract at:

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