A new way of detecting cancer, currently under development by researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales, could be expanded beyond detection and used to remove these diseased cells before they have a chance to spread. The proposed removal process would be similar to that of a kidney dialysis machine. The method would filter the blood and separate the cancer-afflicted cells from the healthy ones during the process.
Developed by Dr. Majid Warkiani of UNSW’s School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, the system provides a non-invasive and affordable method for detecting a small number of cancer cells in a blood sample containing billions of healthy cells. The technique isolates the circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that are shed from a tumor and enter the bloodstream, which then carries the cancer to a different part of the body. The method developed by Warkiani spins out the CTCs from a patient’s blood sample, separating them from healthy blood cells and making them easier to detect.
As noted by Dr. Warkiani, this cancer detection technique offers “a non-invasive ‘liquid biopsy’ that can flag the presence of any type of solid cancer – like lung, breast, bowel, and so on – without the need for surgery.” It potentially can be scaled up from filtering a small blood sample to processing a patient’s entire blood supply. The method would then filter out all the dangerous cells in a patient’s body and return only healthy cells.
Warkiani believes his technique could prolong the life of cancer patients who could be prescribed a regular regimen of cancer cleansing to ensure that all CTCs are removed. This method could revolutionize cancer treatment, providing a way for doctors to treat cancer continually, transforming the sometimes fatal disease into one that can managed over a long period of time. Warkiani’s method is currently undergoing clinical trials in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The researchers also are partnering with Clearbridge BioMedics to commercialize the technique.