Detecting cancer early

February 1, 2010
Nanoparticles connected to antibodies are luminescent in two spectral ranges. This makes it possible to check the homogeneous occupation of the sensor electrode. Credit: Fraunhofer ISC/Ingo Peters

A new testing method is being developed to detect cancer soon after the tumor has formed. It will identify characteristic substances in the blood which accompany a certain type of tumor. The first steps in the development have already been completed.

The earlier the doctor finds the tumor, the better the patient's chances of recovery. A new testing method aims to detect the disease in its initial stages. The technology is based on a microfluidic chip with tiny channels in which a from the patient circulates. The chip traces marker proteins which are indicative of cancer. The measured concentration of the tumor marker in the blood will help doctors to diagnose the disease at an early stage. Similar testing systems already exist but their measurements are not very precise and they can only detect molecules that are present in the blood in large quantities. What's more, the tests have to be carried out in a laboratory, which is time-consuming and costly.

A project funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research and coordinated by the Fraunhofer FIT aims to improve matters. Biofunctionalized nanoparticles developed by research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg are the key element in the new sensor.

"We have improved the detection limit compared with the present state of the art by a factor of one hundred," explains Dr. Jörn Probst, Head of the Business Unit Life Science at the ISC. "Whereas previously a hundred molecules were needed in a certain quantity of blood to detect tumor markers, we now need only one. This means that diseases can be diagnosed much earlier than with present methods."

But how does the integrated in the chip register the few swimming around in the blood that are indicative of a certain disease? "We have placed antibody-occupied nanoparticles on the sensor which fish out the relevant proteins. For this purpose, we repeatedly pump the blood across the electrode surface. As with a river, the flow is fastest in mid-channel and the water runs more slowly near the bank. We have therefore made a sort of fishing rod using nanoparticles which registers the in the middle of the blood flow where most proteins swim by per unit of time." If an antibody catches the matching protein, a , the electrical charge distribution shifts and this is picked up by the electrode.

The researcher groups are now developing a first demonstrator combining four independent single-molecule-sensitive biosensors. The experts are also working on the simultaneous detection of several tumor markers, which will increase the clarity of tests. The system will be ready to enter the market in a few years' time.

Explore further: Detecting Cancer with Silica Nanoparticles

Related Stories

Detecting Cancer with Silica Nanoparticles

September 18, 2006

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha is a widely accepted biomarker for cancer, but the minute amounts of this protein circulating in blood makes detecting the molecule and measuring its concentration accurately a technological challenge.

Nano-implant measures tumor growth, treatment

December 5, 2006

A tiny implant now being developed at MIT could one day help doctors rapidly monitor the growth of tumors and the progress of chemotherapy in cancer patients. The implant contains nanoparticles that can be designed to test ...

Researchers identify ovarian cancer biomarkers

March 7, 2007

Researchers have identified markers unique to the cells of blood vessels running through ovarian tumors. The finding, while preliminary, could one day improve screening, diagnosis and treatment for this disease.

New test improves detection of liver cancer

August 8, 2007

Cancer of the liver is very difficult to detect, and it is a major cause of death in Asia and Africa, with rising incidence in Western countries as well. Now, VIB researchers connected to Ghent University, in collaboration ...

Recommended for you

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

Wafer-thin material heralds future of wearable technology

July 27, 2015

UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) has successfully pioneered a way to construct a flexible, foldable and lightweight energy storage device that provides the building blocks for next-generation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.