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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Until now it has been hard, almost impossible, to identify how Cancer spreads around the body, and that’s made metastasising cancers harder to treat.

 

Following on from a recent announcement from another team that they’ve managed to use a simple blood test to detect cancer in a persons blood stream years before it becomes a real threat, a team from Rutgers University in the US, whose colleagues also have grand plans, but this time to re-freeze the arctic, have announced they’ve created a new method for detecting tiny cancerous tumours within people’s bodies. Using light emitting nanoparticles the teams technique can accurately identify and track early stage tumours months before they grow large enough to be detectable by conventional imaging methods, giving patients more time to have them treated, and dramatically increasing the chances of that treatments’ success.

 

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One of the major downsides of current cancer diagnosis technologies is that a tumour can often grow to a damaging size by the time conventional imaging methods are able to detect it, and catching a cancer when it metastasizes can also be tricky as doctors generally won’t know the disease has spread until it’s too late.

This new detection method involves injecting a subject with nanoparticles that emit short wave Infrared (IR) light. The nanoparticles travel through the bloodstream and are designed to stick to specific cancer cells. In early mouse experiments the new nanoparticles accurately identified and tracked breast cancer cells as they spread to several other locations in the animal’s body.

“We’ve always had this dream that we can track the progression of cancer in real time, and that’s what we’ve done here,” says the author of the study Prabhas Moghe, “we’ve managed to track the disease in its very incipient stages.”

The new imaging technology excitingly promises a kind of real-time tracking of cancer cells and the researchers suggest this method can be used to detect most types of cancer.

 

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“Cancer cells can lodge themselves in different niches in the body, and our nanoparticle ‘probes’ can follows the spreading cells wherever they go,” said Vidya Ganapathy who also worked on the project, “you can [now] treat the tumours intelligently because now you know the address of the cancer.”

Perhaps most inspiring is the suggestion this technology could be available in less than five years, allowing doctors an unprecedented ability to catch and track cancers more effectively, and more importantly, much earlier, than ever before.

“The Achilles’ heel of surgical management for cancer is the presence of micro metastases,” explains Ganapathy, “this is also a problem for proper staging or treatment planning. The nanoprobes described in this paper will go a long way to solving these problems.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, award winning Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank working between the dates of 2020 and 2070, is described as "The Adviser behind the Advisers." Regularly featured on AP, CNBC, Discovery and RT, his ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past five years as one of the world's foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive future. A rare talent Matthew sits on the Technology and Innovation Committee (TIAC) for Centrica, Europe’s largest utility company, and his recent work includes mentoring XPrize teams, building the first generation of biocomputers and re-inventing global education, and helping the world’s largest manufacturers envision, design and build the next 20 years of devices, smartphones and intelligent machines. Matthew's clients are the who’s who of industry and include Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, the USAF and many others.

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