A new blood scanner developed by Stanford researchers may allow doctors to identify cancer in patients sooner, and treat the disease faster, according to medical researchers.
The scanner can search for cancer-associated proteins in a blood sample and return results in less than an hour.
It uses magnetic nanotechnology to spot the cancer proteins and is ten to hundreds of times more sensitive than existing commercial devices. As a result, proteins can be found while there are relatively few of them in the bloodstream and the cancer is still at a very early stage.
A silicon chip in the scanner identifies the cancer-related proteins in the blood sample. The chip works by using an identification process called "bio-recognition". If a blood sample contains cancerous proteins, it links up with complementary proteins on the chip. When this happens, it is clear that there are cancerous proteins in the body.
"This could be especially helpful for lung cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer, because those cancers are hidden in the body," said Shan Wang, a Stanford professor of materials science and of electrical engineering in a press release. Wang was one of the senior authors of the paper.
The device still has to undergo clinical testing and trials. Wang has co-founded a start-up, MagArray, that will seek regulatory approval for the scanner. The researchers published their results in the 1 December edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.