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Biotech Medicine Science

Prototype Scanner Detects Cancer In Under 1 Hour 53

Posted by timothy
from the good-news-is-we-have-your-results-already dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Researchers at Stanford say they have developed a blood scanner that can search for cancer-associated proteins in a blood sample and returns results in less than an hour. The device looks in a blood sample for cancerous proteins, and attempts to match them up with complementary proteins using chips based on magnetic nanotechnology. One of the researchers says the device could potentially help doctors identify lung cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer at an early stage. The device still has to undergo clinical testing and trials before it can win regulatory approval."
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Prototype Scanner Detects Cancer In Under 1 Hour

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  • yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jDeepbeep (913892) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @04:56PM (#25994251)

    The device still has to undergo clinical testing and trials before it can win regulatory approval."

    Meanwhile.... 14 years later...

    • Re:yawn (Score:5, Informative)

      by the4thdimension (1151939) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:00PM (#25994301) Homepage
      Indeed. This thing is a LONG way off. By the time they get this out the door to hospitals for use, someone will have an instant test coming out and we should just be fast-tracking that.

      I work for a company that makes such devices and clinical trials and testing are not even close to the last step. Clinical trials are the beta test, so to speak, and often mean you have months and months of bug fixing and documentation to do. Take a device intended to diagnose patients, and you can multiple that by years. Fourteen years might seem funny, but its actually somewhat accurate. My company has been working on a product for nine years now seeking US approval.
      • by brian0918 (638904)
        By the time this thing gets regulatory approval, a young Bones McCoy will be writing his high school paper on primitive medical barbarism of the early 21st century.
      • Re:yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Invicta{HOG} (38763) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:59PM (#25995051)

        I agree - studies like this are quite common in the medical literature and, while exciting to think about, have a long way to go before they find their way into the clinic. For instance, this chip is looking for many different kinds of proteins. Each protein will have a specific false positive and false negative rate of detection. Because the chip has so many proteins it looks for, the total false positive/negative rate for cancer detection of the chip will have to be determined and, likewise, a decision made as to whether this is an acceptable rate for clinical practice. For instance, it might do well for each individual cancer/protein, but when you are looking for so many different cancers, you might find that an unacceptably high number of chips return an answer of "CANCER." Since this might necessitate costly evaluations with their own inherent risks, you will need to insure before this comes to market that the results are clinically relevant and have an acceptable positive/negative predictive value.

      • Can I sign something somewhere that says "I waive my right to sue and here is a wad of cash, I want the advantages of your tech now"?

    • by jcr (53032)

      Fourteen years, and probably tens of thousands of deaths.

      -jcr

      • Re:yawn (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Invicta{HOG} (38763) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:45PM (#25995687)

        There is no guarantee that this will save lives. That's what studies are for. You are confusing cancer detection (or in this case cancer related protein detection) with cancer therapy.

        Take two examples now available to detect cancer/cancer related proteins. The first, prostate specific antigen (PSA) is elevated in most cases of prostate cancer. This simple blood test was recommended for all men above a certain age to screen for cancer. However, it does its job too well. It finds cancer in so many men that people started wondering whether finding all of this cancer is a good thing. A lot of men are old enough (and prostate cancer grows slowly enough) that they would certainly have died from other causes without ever having a single symptom of prostate cancer. Additionally, the number of biopsies done to find early cancer (or to find that there was no cancer after all!) combined with the amount of morbidity from current modalities of prostate cancer therapy have led many organizations to conclude that screening for prostate cancer does more harm than good.

        A second example comes from the detection of thyroid cancer. Above a certain age, a simple thyroid ultrasound has a fairly good chance of detecting a thyroid nodule. There's a fairly good chance that this nodule will be cancer. However, the risk from dying from this thyroid cancer end up being very low - low enough that the risks from detecting and treating it are higher than the risks of just leaving it be.

        When this has been proven to save lives or improve the quality of life of people with asymptomatic cancer, I will join you in criticizing an admittedly slow and often overly burdensome system. But at this point you can't criticize when the device is so far from proven.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jcr (53032)

          You are confusing cancer detection (or in this case cancer related protein detection) with cancer therapy.

          I'm doing nothing of the kind. I'm taking note of the fact that the earlier a cancer is detected, the better the chances of survival.

          But at this point you can't criticize when the device is so far from proven

          The hell I can't. The FDA kills people every day.

          -jcr

          • Cars kill people every day. Do you drive? When you drive, do you speed? (You are aware the speed limits were introduced because of statistics showing reduced accident rates, yes?) People make life-and-death decisions all the time based around the fact that some must die so that others might live. They simply choose to try to ignore it as much as possible. With no easy transportation, quality of life would be much poorer. People would die sooner. People would die because they didn't get to the doctor
            • by jcr (53032)

              Cars kill people every day.

              Thank goodness you're here, ridiculous analogy man!

              People make life-and-death decisions all the time based around the fact that some must die so that others might live.

              In a free country, people make those decisions for themselves, rather than requiring the permission of a bureaucrat to avail themselves of medical help.

              -jcr

          • by geekoid (135745)

            If You think the FDA kills people, try not having an FDA.

        • There is no guarantee that this will save lives. That's what studies are for. You are confusing cancer detection (or in this case cancer related protein detection) with cancer therapy.

          Take two examples now available to detect cancer/cancer related proteins. The first, prostate specific antigen (PSA) is elevated in most cases of prostate cancer. This simple blood test was recommended for all men above a certain age to screen for cancer. However, it does its job too well. It finds cancer in so many men that people started wondering whether finding all of this cancer is a good thing. A lot of men are old enough (and prostate cancer grows slowly enough) that they would certainly have died from other causes without ever having a single symptom of prostate cancer. Additionally, the number of biopsies done to find early cancer (or to find that there was no cancer after all!) combined with the amount of morbidity from current modalities of prostate cancer therapy have led many organizations to conclude that screening for prostate cancer does more harm than good.

          A second example comes from the detection of thyroid cancer. Above a certain age, a simple thyroid ultrasound has a fairly good chance of detecting a thyroid nodule. There's a fairly good chance that this nodule will be cancer. However, the risk from dying from this thyroid cancer end up being very low - low enough that the risks from detecting and treating it are higher than the risks of just leaving it be.

          When this has been proven to save lives or improve the quality of life of people with asymptomatic cancer, I will join you in criticizing an admittedly slow and often overly burdensome system. But at this point you can't criticize when the device is so far from proven.

          But all that doesn't mean we shouldn't go looking for problems (as long as the diagnostic is innocuous in and of itself).

          If many cases of Prostate cancer do not result in fatalities due to the disease, we simply need to perform more research to define better criteria for when it is necessary to provide treatment following detection.

          (Also, for your two examples against, there are dozens of other cancers that can be cured with an extremely high success rate if caught early, but are virtually guaranteed to be

          • Yes, but the human body is generally in an equilibrium with many different cancers. Rogue cells develop and are killed by our immune system. It is not known whether treating cancer at the 1-10 cell level is necessary or will save lives - we've simply never been able to detect it that early. What would you recommend - chemo and radiation? It's quite dangerous to assume that cancer detected in this way is the same as cancer detected in the traditional way or that the possible over-treatment of cancer that wou

            • by Shotgun (30919)

              Your argument befuddles me.

              Are you arguing that if we have an indication that there might be cancer present, we may decide it is best not to attempt treatment, therefore it is best not to look for it in the first place?

              Are you claiming that it would be better to get that colonoscopy instead of giving a blood sample?

              It is your contention that women are better being fired up with X-rays to look for breast cancer instead of giving a blood sample?

              And what if the device gives a false positive? Does that mean th

              • Are you arguing that if we have an indication that there might be cancer present, we may decide it is best not to attempt treatment, therefore it is best not to look for it in the first place?

                Not only am I arguing this, I am telling you that this kind of practice is actually already standard of care in some instances.

                Imagine a device so sensitive for cancer that it detects a single cancerous cell. Imagine that 99 times out of a hundred this cell is killed by the immune system and never causes a more systemic problem. Now, imagine that the treatment for this kind of cancer is a chemotherapeutic agent with a 2% chance of death/disability. Would you feel that identifying the cancer was worthwhile i

                • by Shotgun (30919)

                  It's not just a disdain for the FDA. It is a disdain for all paternalistic government that would deem to know what is best for me.

                  A test such as this may not tell you that you need pieces cut out of your body, but if it does reliably detect the proper proteins it can let me know that I don't need a camera shoved up my hind end.

                  Yes, it needs to be studied, but 14 years to approve a non-invasive, screening test is ridiculous. The efficacy of the technique for identifying the proteins can be shown in a matt

  • Cancer Joke (Score:2, Funny)

    by amclay (1356377)
    Doctor: Well, we better discuss treatment now for your testicular cancer. I recommend hormone therapy. Man: Are there any side-effects? Doctor: A few. You will have a loss of potency. You might get some hot flashes. And when lost, you will have an inexplicable urge to ask for directions. http://www.phoenix5.org/humor/HumorRVYjokes.html [phoenix5.org]
  • Any doctors here?

    Isn't this only useful if the cancer is already developed to the point where it is spilling cancer cells into your blood?

    I don't see this being useful for detecting breast, brain, foot or butt tumors?

    • the device is detecting proteins associated with cancer, not the cancer cells themselves.
    • Re:Usefulness? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:23PM (#25994605)

      Well, according to the summary the scanner is looking for protiens that are produced by cancerous cells, not the cells themselves. And even if it were the case that it could only detect the cancer cells in the blood, it would still have it's uses. If it could be made cheap enough, it could become a standard test, everytime you visit the doctor. It would still allow us to catch cancer cases earlier than they would have been otherwise even if we couldn't rely on it to detect 100% of all cancer cases.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        It would still allow us to catch cancer cases earlier than they would have been otherwise even if we couldn't rely on it to detect 100% of all cancer cases.

        Careful what you ask for, you might get it. A large number of cancers, perhaps the majority of them, are 'cured' by the immune system at very early stages. Even some Breast Cancers seen on mammograms will involute. (A Google search is in order if you're curious). If you are not very careful to understand the biology of the cancer in question you wi

    • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:24PM (#25994619)

      I don't see this being useful for detecting breast... tumors

      That's what hands are for. (Preferrably my hands)

    • Isn't this only useful if the cancer is already developed to the point where it is spilling cancer cells into your blood?

      IANAD but afaik, first the cancer cell must release itself from its primary tumor, and make its way through the walls of the blood vessel. Even once in the blood, it's thought that of many thousands and thousands of cancer cells that make their way through the unlikely trip into the bloodstream, only one or two will probably form a metastasis.

    • Re:Usefulness? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by coolsnowmen (695297) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:06PM (#25995143)

      The key to the gap in your understanding is that cancer proteins can be found in the blood with out there being any cancer cells that have actually metastasized to the blood. When any cells replicate proteins slip in to the blood for various reasons. Looking at presence and the relative increase of these proteins is the focus for early detection of cancers.

      tNOX (tumor-associated NADH oxidase) is a protein some research [healthvideo.com] was looking at.

      serum amyloid A elevates for lung cancer [dukehealth.org]

      Doctors in india found a protein to indicate the precursor to colon cancer [upi.com]

      early detection of ovarian cancer [ynhh.org] based on four proteins: leptin, prolactin, osteopontin and insulin-like growth factor-II.

      All this research is from the last couple years, so it appears that measuring the correlation of these proteins with cancer has been an area of hot research.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:24PM (#25994635) Homepage

    Not only did I invent a device which would correctly diagnose cancer 99.999% of the time, not only did it work in only half an hour, it also didn't involve any of this expensive magnetic nanotechnology la-dee-dah. Plus the device was so ridiculously simple anybody could use it, which you'll see once I describe the device itself.

    Basically it's a big box, kinda like a front-loading washing machine. In front of the box is the scanning aperture. On top of the box is a single button labeled "Detect Cancer". You stand in front of the scanning aperture, and you hit the button. Over the next half hour, the box scans you with very high levels of x-rays. Once the scanning was done the only other feature on the top of the box, a green LED with a label that says "Cancer Detected", would light up.

    You see, so simple a child could use it! I should know, too, because I had some try it out. But those bastards at the FDA brushed me off, even threatening me if I continued performing clinical trials! Even after I showed them it had the same accuracy detecting radiation burns and radiation sickness! But what do you expect from bureaucrats? More concerned with their "rules" and "regulations" than helping people. I wouldn't be surprised if this new one gets a pass because being hard to build and complicated to use they can regulate the hell out of it, even if it is inferior. :(

  • by Unknown Relic (544714) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:33PM (#25994737) Homepage
    How does this compare to traditional tests? One hour is great and all, but how long to today's tests take to return results?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by RingDev (879105)

      No idea, but if it means I don't need the doc to stick a finger up my bumm, I'm all for it!

      -Rick

    • by Invicta{HOG} (38763) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:27PM (#25995487)

      This technology is not currently available in the marketplace. There are blood tests that look for tumor markers such as PSA, CEA, CA19-9, etc. and they generally are sent to a large reference laboratory for analysis. This can take up to a week. Traditionally cancer is diagnosed pathologically by looking at a tissue sample underneath a microscope. Aside from the obvious need to undergo a biopsy, this can often be done quickly (pathologist standing in the OR, the surgeon hands the sample over, they read it then and there). However, the hour time frame is not the real story here - it's the ability to combine all of this screening in the first place.

      • However, the hour time frame is not the real story here - it's the ability to combine all of this screening in the first place.

        Having lost a grandmother, aunt, and coworker to ovarian cancer, I have a slightly different perspective on this. Ovarian cancer is just extremely difficult to accurately discover in time to treat effectively. There are tests that can be done to test for it, but the rate of false positives and negatives really negate their usefulness. Usually by the time the cancer is discovered,

        • You are right - the ability to test for ovarian cancer is a big story here (if this works). That was more my intention with my reply. The ability to do this in the first place is more important than the ability to do it so quickly. I should have been more careful with my wording.

          • by shalla (642644)

            Aha. I read you as the scanning for multiple cancers at once being beneficial (which it definitely would be). Either way, we're agreed all around that how long it takes is less important than what it can offer in other areas. ;)

            Cheers!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jandoedel (1149947)
      Well, since it tests the blood of the patient, and doesn't need to scan patient per patient, that probably means that you can put a lot of blood samples together in one big pot, and then test that mixture (and do this a couple of times, to reduce the error margin, but that can be done at the same time.) If your batch is cancer free, you have just tested X people in one hour. If not, then you split the batch in two, and test both batches to know which of them contains the cancerous blood. Continue a couple
  • Great news. I need new glasses and it would be nice not to have to make a separate trip.

  • 1. Build a detector that causes cancer in under thirty minutes.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!!
  • I'm reading this article in the middle of my MCB132: Cancer Biology class at Berkeley. Looks like Stanford is getting another bio Nobel prize....oh well, Cal pwns them in Chemistry and Physics prizes.
  • As far as i understood detecting very slight amounts of a
    particular protein also has many other uses besides
    detection of cancer proteins in a clinical environment.

    The whole thing already looks like a ready to use device
    in the picture [thestandard.com] so i think it's pretty close
    to actual applications, even if it's not approved for clinical use.

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