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Posted: Apr 04, 2014
Lab-on-a-chip to detect pancreatic cancer in 5 hours
(Nanowerk News) 90% of deaths from cancer arise from metastasis. This is triggered when a tumour send out what are known as circulating tumour cells (CTC), having the capacity to invade new zones of the body. Currently, in order to detect these cells, a lengthy, costly and complex process has to be undertaken.
The European authorities believe that this process could be cut in costs, time and human resources, with existing microfluid technologies and, as a result, have launched the CANDO project. At the heart of this initiative, in which the Basque IK4-IKERLAN technological centre is taking part, a lab-on-a chip device will be developed which will enable automatically identifying and measuring the concentration of the CTCs.
This system will be used to prognosticate, classify and monitor the state of pancreatic cancer and, in accord with the primary estimates, a diagnosis will be available within 5 hours. Detecting the cancer’s progress will help to evaluate the response to oncological therapies individually i.e. if the treatment works or not), which will help in enhancing the quality of life of the patient.
Cancer of the pancreas has an important socioeconomic impact because, in general, it is currently only diagnosed at a very late stage, with a 96% probability of death for the 68,000 Europeans diagnosed each year with this disease.
The process of detection of the CTC is very difficult due to the lengthy and costly procedures in the laboratory and the scant number of these cells in the bloodstream, with a proportion of about one in a thousand million. The process of analysis, which takes several days of work and a complete team of persons, involves the manual extraction of samples, the identification and enumeration of cells under the microscope and the biological and molecular characterisation of the CTCs.
Besides automation, the reduction in costs and the greater rapidity in the diagnosis of the cancer, the CANDO project has a second strand: the progress being made in what is known as ‘targeted therapies’, a type of treatment that focuses its effect specifically on cancer cells, causing minimum damage to healthy cells.
In this way, the advances in the CANDO project will be employed to prognosticate, classify and monitor the state of pancreatic cancer, but also to develop new, less invasive pharmaceutical drugs to combat cancer of the pancreas.
How the device works
The procedure for diagnosis will be as follows: once the blood sample is extracted from the patient, it is placed on the chip, which is fitted with micro-nano-bio and photonic systems capable of carrying out DNA amplification tasks and molecular analysis. Then the chip is fitted onto the system created by IK4-IKERLAN, responsible for the identification and quantification of CTCs. Five hours later, the diagnosis is available.
Although as yet there is no date fixed for marketing the system, the CANDO project has already set up a committee for its commercial exploitation in order to guarantee its market success.
A marketing plan will be set out and which will mainly target the European and North American markets. One of the primary phases of this plan will involve getting to know the system through attending oncologists’ meetings at the European Society for Medical Oncology and in the associations for Europe and American clinical oncology.