University of TorontoDue to technology, there have been many new ways in which a grave and critical disease like cancer may be detected rapidly. Bearing the topic in mind, researchers from the University of Toronto have apparently used nanomaterials to develop an economical microchip which may be responsive enough to rapidly determine the kind and severity of a patient’s cancer so that the disease may be diagnosed earlier for more effectual treatment.

The researchers’ new device may effortlessly sense the signature biomarkers that could signify the existence of cancer at the cellular level, albeit these biomolecules are said to be usually present only at low levels in biological samples. Examination may be finished in ½ an hour, which is claimed to be an immense development over the present diagnostic procedures that could usually take several days.

Professor David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto and a professor of medicine, commented, “This remarkable innovation is an indication that the age of nanomedicine is dawning. Thanks to the breadth of expertise here at U of T, cross-disciplinary collaborations of this nature make such landmark advances possible.”

Shana Kelley, a professor in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Medicine, who was a lead investigator on the project and a co-author on the publication, added, “Today, it takes a room filled with computers to evaluate a clinically relevant sample of cancer biomarkers and the results aren’t quickly available. Our team was able to measure biomolecules on an electronic chip the size of your fingertip and analyze the sample within half an hour. The instrumentation required for this analysis can be contained within a unit the size of a BlackBerry.”

Students working with Kelley and engineering professor Ted Sargent, who is a fellow lead investigator and U of T’s Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology and an interdisciplinary team from Princess Margaret Hospital and Queen’s University, discovered that usual, flat metal electrical sensors were believed to be insufficient to sense cancer’s particular biomarkers. In its place, they apparently designed and fabricated a chip and supposedly decked it with nanometer-sized wires and molecular ‘bait’.

Sargent mentioned, “Uniting DNA – the molecule of life – with speedy, miniaturized electronic chips is an example of cross-disciplinary convergence. By working with outstanding researchers in nanomaterials, pharmaceutical sciences, and electrical engineering, we were able to demonstrate that controlled integration of nanomaterials provides a major advantage in disease detection and analysis.”

Apparently the pace and precision supplied by the device is said to be good news to cancer researchers.

Dr. Tom Hudson, president and scientific director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, quoted, “We rely on the measurement of biomarkers to detect cancer and to know if treatments are working. The discovery by Dr. Kelley and her team offers the possibility of a faster, more cost-effective technology that could be used anywhere, speeding up diagnosis and helping to deliver a more targeted treatment to the patient.”

The team’s microchip platform has apparently been examined on prostate cancer, and head and neck cancer models. It may be used to identify and evaluate other cancers, as well as infectious diseases like HIV, MRSA and H1N1 flu.

Dr. Fei-Fei Liu, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital and Head of Applied Molecular Oncology Division, Ontario Cancer Institute, commented, “The system developed by the Kelley/Sargent team is a revolutionary technology that could allow us to track biomarkers that might have significant relevance to cancer, with a combination of speed, sensitivity, and accuracy not available with any current technology.”

Dr. Fei-Fei Liu mentioned that this type of approach could have a profound impact on the future management for cancer patients.

The findings were published in Nature Nanotechnology.