Nano-devices hold promise for early-stage cancer detection

December 12, 2006

They are miniature labs that can be swallowed like a pill, injected through a catheter, or woven into fabric. Their function is to screen for, detect, and potentially treat, cancer and other diseases when they are still at a single-cell size in early development stages. They will also detect harmful pathogens in food and water.

Engineering researchers at McMaster University will be escalating efforts to develop these micro- and nanotechnology-based bio-sensors and imaging devices through the support of a recently announced $4.25 million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

"This research is opening up a new front in the battle against cancer and other diseases," said Jamal Deen, the lead applicant, professor of electrical and computer engineering and Canada Research Chair in Information Technology, McMaster University. "The technology zeros in on specific malignant cells at an early stage when treatment can be more effective and potential side effects minimized."

The funding is part of a $10.6 million initiative to expand existing nano-fabrication and integration facilities at McMaster to establish a world-class Micro- and Nano-Systems Laboratory for the development of miniaturized, low-cost and easy-to-use prototypes for imaging and sensing in healthcare and environmental applications.

"The imaging and sensing technologies being pursued would be non-invasive, removing the discomfort, expense, and risk associated with many screening procedures, such as a colonoscopy," said Qiyin Fang, assistant professor of engineering physics and Canada Research Chair in Biophotonics at McMaster. "It would therefore allow for large-scale screening for early disease detection."

The bio-sensors and imaging devices being explored are based on integrating dissimilar technologies such as DNA, semiconductors, nanowires and polymers into "smart systems" on a small chip. The resulting micro-labs could contain miniaturized systems for fluid filtration, DNA extraction, cell processing, imaging, computing, wireless communications, and laser and radiation detection systems.

Research currently underway includes: "The ultimate goal is to develop reliable and inexpensive detection and imaging products that can be used in a doctor's office or possibly even at home as part of a regular exam," said Steve Hranilovic, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at McMaster. "This would address wait-time and cost issues associated with MRI, CT and other imaging facilities. It would also reduce the misdiagnosis and uncertainty associated with self-examinations."

Research has shown that early detection of cancer improves cure and survival rates dramatically. For example, the five-year survival rate of breast cancer patients when a tumor is detected at less than two centimeters in size is 98 per cent. It is only 26 per cent when the tumor is larger than five centimeters. For colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death, at least 90 per cent of cases can be cured with proper screening and surveillance.

Engineering faculty at McMaster are working closely with their colleagues in health sciences on this research, as well as with researchers at the Universities of Toronto, Waterloo, and Calgary, McGill University and the National Research Council.

"This initiative is possible because engineers are collaborating closely with medical practitioners and scientists to develop real solutions," said Mo Elbestawi, Dean of Engineering, McMaster University "The lab will attract exceptional researchers and students, and foster innovative and high-profile interdisciplinary research. It will create novel and exciting learning environments for training, and attract new industrial partnerships."

Plans call for the lab to occupy approximately 9,600 square feet and include a clean room, bonding and packaging facilities, characterization facilities, and prototyping and testing.

"The development of this unique infrastructure complements research already underway at McMaster in the related fields of biomedical engineering, manufacturing and materials, information technology, and nanotechnology," said Elbestawi. "Funding support from government is seeding a nanotechnology cluster in Canada that can compete internationally."
-end-


McMaster University

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.