In order to better monitor patients’ response to cancer therapies and improve the efficacy of their treatments, researchers from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT have developed a device that can be implanted safely into an individual. Once it’s planted, the device will be able to provide information on the current state of the tumor.
Doctors are currently relying on scanning technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and/or biopsies to monitor a patient’s response to cancer treatments. While helpful, these methods only provide a snapshot at a specific point in time—things can change before doctors even have a chance to analyze the results. However, by providing more timely information about the tumor, this new implantable device may provide a way around this issue.
The device works by using a biosensor that monitors two important indicators for how effective the tumor is responding to the treatment. The first is pH (acidity) level—chemotherapy makes the tissue of the tumor more acidic, which the biosensor will be able to pick up. The second is dissolved oxygen—a tumor will thrive in low-oxygen conditions, so monitoring this can help with determining appropriate treatment doses.
The biosensor, which is small enough to fit in a biopsy needle’s tip, features a shell made from biocompatible plastic that holds chemical agents (similar to the ones used for MRI scans) and tiny electronics that send data to an external reading device.
When implanted and tested in rats, the device was able to send fast and accurate signals about the oxygen concentration and pH level in surrounding tissue. Findings have been published in the journal Labe on a Chip. The next step for researchers is to test the device’s ability to measure changes over more extended periods, in hopes that in the future it can be used to monitor a patient’s health over the long-term.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Vassiliou, C.C., et al., “Miniaturized, biopsy-implanted chemical sensor with wireless, magnetic resonance readout,” Lab on a Chip 2015; http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/lc/c5lc00546a#!divAbstract, doi: 10.1039/C5LC00546A.
Paddock, C., “Implantable biosensor could monitor progress of cancer therapy,” Medical News Today web site, August 5, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/297759.php.