MAY 31, 2016 2:37 PM PDT

3D Hydrogel Biochips Improve Colon Cancer Detection

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
New biomarkers to better detect colon cancer


For cancer, treatment outcome and survival is directly influenced by early detection and intervention. This is especially true for colorectal cancer, which surreptitiously lurks in the body with minimal symptoms in the early stages, only to become fully malignant when it’s nearly too late. To increase the rate of early detection of colorectal cancer, researchers have created a hydro-gel based biochip that can detect cancer with unprecedented sensitivity. With the device, the team hopes to significantly increase patient survival.
 
Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or bowel cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer type in the world. The cancer usually begins as small, benign lumps of cells that form polyps in the colon. Without proper removal, these polyps can turn cancerous and cause symptoms such as abdomen pain, rectal bleeding, weakness, and fatigue. According to a recent report, the incidence of colorectal cancer is expected to increase by 60% to more than 2.2?million new cases and 1.1?million deaths by 2030.
 
Current detection methods for colorectal cancer include invasive colonoscopy procedures that check for the presence of pre-cancerous polyps. When polyps are found, physicians can remove it before they turn into cancer. Another source of detection is through screening patients for commonly mutated genes that are associated with colorectal cancer. This method picks out people who have a high risk of hereditary colorectal cancer, such as in familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). But despite these efforts, colorectal cancer can still strike.
 


Molecules secreted by the colorectal cancer can alert doctors to the presence of the disease. However, the biomarkers currently being used - carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) with carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9 – only detect the disease 50 percent of the time. This low sensitivity makes it unreliable as a diagnostic test.
 
But recognizing that biomarkers hold immense diagnostic potential, Russian scientists sought to find more sensitive molecules that can detect colorectal cancer. For this, they turned to colorectal tumor-associated glycans – molecules that allow researchers to differentiate healthy cells from cancerous ones.
 
The team then used a 3D hydrogel-based microchip, which held cells that contained the immobilized antibodies. The antibodies used included six (CEA, CA 19–9, CA 125, CA 15–3, HCG, and AFP) as well as immobilized glycans. This platform allows the team to use blood samples obtained in routine checks, minimizing unnecessary medical procedures to the patients.
 
As they had hoped, the glycans proved to be much more sensitive at picking up colorectal cancer than traditional biomarkers alone. In a cohort of 129 blood samples, healthy and diseased, the platform achieved 87 percent sensitivity and 97 percent specificity. This means the test has high accuracy detecting those with colorectal, and just as importantly, those without colorectal cancer. The new platform outperformed the standard test significantly.
 
"The method developed at [the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology] has great potential to be used in diagnosing gastrointestinal diseases. We hope that testing systems based on the method will soon appear in clinical laboratories in Russia," said Zhanna Zubtsova, assistant professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and co-author of the study.
 
Additional source: Science Daily

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 04, 2022
Cancer
Fiber in Green Bananas Protects from Some Cancers
AUG 04, 2022
Fiber in Green Bananas Protects from Some Cancers
Starch, a natural, sugar-containing component in many green plants, is present in high concentrations in foods such as p ...
AUG 11, 2022
Cancer
Exposure to "Forever Chemical" Linked to Liver Cancer
AUG 11, 2022
Exposure to "Forever Chemical" Linked to Liver Cancer
In 1938, Dr. Roy Plunkett made an accidental discovery!  He observed tetrafluoroethylene spontaneously polymerize i ...
AUG 29, 2022
Cancer
Could Robotic Surgery Provide Better Care for Patients with Kidney Cancer?
AUG 29, 2022
Could Robotic Surgery Provide Better Care for Patients with Kidney Cancer?
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer, accounting for about 90% of kidney cancer incidence ...
SEP 15, 2022
Immunology
How a Cancer-Causing Virus Evades Human Immunity
SEP 15, 2022
How a Cancer-Causing Virus Evades Human Immunity
While our immune system is usually able to identify and destroy pathogenic invaders like bacteria and viruses, those mic ...
SEP 21, 2022
Cancer
Technology for Monitoring Tumors in Pre-Clinical Studies
SEP 21, 2022
Technology for Monitoring Tumors in Pre-Clinical Studies
Pre-clinical modeling, often using laboratory mice, is essential in developing life-saving therapies to treat cancer and ...
NOV 10, 2022
Plants & Animals
Treating Cancer in Dogs Using "Click" Chemistry
NOV 10, 2022
Treating Cancer in Dogs Using "Click" Chemistry
Researchers from California and Denmark were recently awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the development of what&r ...
Loading Comments...