Smartphone app for cancer diagnosis may be on the way

Feb 24, 2011 by Lin Edwards report
Portable NMR smartphone app. Image credit: R. Weissleder et al. DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3002048

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers in the US have developed a device that works with a smartphone to diagnose a suspicious lump in a patient and determine within an hour if it is benign or cancerous.

The current procedure for diagnosis of suspicious lumps is to use a needle to extract a sample from the lump and then to send the cells to a pathology laboratory for examination. The sample is stained to look for tell-tale proteins and the cell shape is examined. The results are obtained within a few days, but are occasionally inconclusive.

Dr Ralph Weissleder of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and colleagues have developed a miniaturized (NMR) scanner that identifies molecules by the way their nuclei are affected by magnetic fields. It also attaches to proteins to allow specific proteins, such as those found in tumor cells, to be identified.

The gadget was tested on suspicious cells collected by fine needle aspiration from 50 patients. Because the samples needed are so small, cells could be taken from several areas of the suspected tumor. The samples were labeled with magnetic nanoparticles and then injected into the micro-NMR machine.

The results can be read by connecting the device to a loaded with a specially-programmed application. The samples tested revealed nine markers for . When the results for four of these proteins were combined they allowed the team to produce a diagnosis.

A portable Nuclear Magnetic Resonance device. Image credit: R. Weissleder.

The tests and analyses took an average of less than one hour for each patient and resulted in accurate diagnosis in 48 of the 50 patients. Another test produced 100% accuracy in 20 patients. Standard pathology tests on similar biopsies produce an accurate diagnosis in 74 to 84 percent of cases.

Dr Weissleder said being able to sample the suspected tumor at several sites made the test more accurate. He said having the results available within the hour is a great advantage because it would reduce patient stress as people hate the days of waiting for standard pathology results to arrive, not knowing whether or not they have cancer. The greater accuracy of the micro-NMR would also cut the number of repeat biopsies needed.

In their paper, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers say eventually the micro-NMR machine could be used to test cancer patients to determine if they are responding to drugs by analyzing for specific proteins in blood samples.

Explore further: Key milestone for brown fat research with a ground-breaking MRI scan

More information: J. B. Haun, C. M. Castro, R. Wang, V. M. Peterson, B. S. Marinelli, H. Lee, R. Weissleder, Micro-NMR for Rapid Molecular Analysis of Human Tumor Samples. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 71ra16 (2011). DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3002048

Related Stories

Implantable Device Offers Continuous Cancer Monitoring

Jul 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Surgical removal of a tissue sample is now the standard for diagnosing cancer. Such procedures, known as biopsies, are accurate but offer only a snapshot of the tumor at a single moment in time.

Coming Soon: Tuberculosis Detection with a Chip?

Jul 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many of the new techniques based on nanotechnology that have been developed for faster and more sensitive detection of pathogens fail in day-to-day clinical use because they require complex sample preparation ...

New 'dentist' test to detect oral cancer will save lives

Aug 09, 2010

A new test for oral cancer, which a dentist could perform by simply using a brush to collect cells from a patient's mouth, is set to be developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield and Sheffield ...

Recommended for you

New pain relief targets discovered

6 hours ago

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

Building 'smart' cell-based therapies

6 hours ago

A Northwestern University synthetic biology team has created a new technology for modifying human cells to create programmable therapeutics that could travel the body and selectively target cancer and other ...

Proper stem cell function requires hydrogen sulfide

9 hours ago

Stem cells in bone marrow need to produce hydrogen sulfide in order to properly multiply and form bone tissue, according to a new study from the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...