Magazine article USA TODAY

Drawing Blood No Longer Necessary

Magazine article USA TODAY

Drawing Blood No Longer Necessary

Article excerpt

A technology for cancer detection that eliminates the need for drawing blood has been developed by researchers at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. In addition to being less invasive, the new detection method is able to evaluate a much larger volume of blood than what can be drawn from a patient for analysis, notes Philip Low, professor of chemistry.

"In the initial stages of cancer, there are very few circulating tumor cells--cells that indicate the spread of cancer and initiate secondary tumor formation," Low explains. "By increasing the volume of blood analyzed, we improve the sensitivity of the test and allow for earlier diagnosis. If there are two cancer cells in every 50 milliliters of blood, odds are the cells would not be found in a 10-milliliter blood sample. However, the cells would be found in the 100 milliliters of blood that flow through large veins each minute."

Optical imaging provides high resolution and chemical specificity for cancer detection, but it usually suffers from limited penetration depth, making it hard to reach tumors inside the body, points out Ji-Xin Cheng, assistant professor of chemistry and biomedical engineering. "In vivo detection of circulating tumor cells in surface veins provides an excellent way to overcome this problem," Cheng reports.

"Circulating tumor cells provide a benchmark for disease progression and precise monitoring of their levels could lead to personalized treatment," Low declares. "This technique allows us to quantify the amount of circulating tumor cells present, as opposed to tests that provide a 'positive' or 'negative' result. …

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