Technology being developed at Washington State University (WSU) provides a non-invasive approach for diagnosing prostate cancer and tracking the disease’s progression. The innovative filter-like device isolates prostate cancer indicators from other cellular information in blood and urine. It could enable doctors to determine how cancer patients are responding to different treatments without needing to perform invasive biopsies. The WSU research team fitted a mat of tiny glass springs with specially designed biomarkers that attract the fatty droplets (exosomes) of proteins and RNA that tumor cells shed into body fluids. The exosomes can contain genetic information that can be analyzed to determine a cancer’s molecular composition, even how far it has advanced. “It may be possible to predict which drugs would be most effective in treating a patient’s cancer,” said WSU Chemistry Professor Clifford Berkman, who led the design of the biomarkers. “More broadly, this technology could be expanded to other types of cancers and diseases.” Writing in Springer’s Journal of Materials Science (online on February 16, 2017), Dr. Berkman, Parissa Ziaei, a Ph.D. student in the WSU Interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering Program, and Grant Norton, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at WSU, said their capture technique is more efficient than previous approaches at isolating prostate tumor exosomes from other bits and pieces of cellular information. The researchers are working on designs for a version of their filter-like device for use in a clinical setting.
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