JAN 12, 2021 6:00 AM PST

Portable Sequencer Ensures All the Cancer Cells Are Gone

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Surgeons remove a tumor from the abdominal cavity of a patient. But how can they be certain that all the cancer cells were successfully extracted? These lingering cancerous tissues pose a serious threat to patients—if not eliminated, they can spread around the body, seeding new tumors. 

Biomedical engineers at Tel Aviv University have designed a solution to assist surgeons: a novel method for spotting cancer cells inside the body in real-time. The technique uses a device, called the MinION, that blends advances in genetics, medicine, engineering, and computer science, allowing physicians to access in-depth cellular data at unprecedented speeds. 

MinION, a genetic sequencing tool created by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, has capabilities that could make it an indispensable part of the oncologists' toolkit. The manufacturers of this technology describe MinIoN devices as “The only portable, real-time devices for DNA and RNA sequencing.” Samples of blood and fluid from the patient’s abdominal cavity are taken and are fed into MinION, which uses its proprietary algorithm for comparing the genetic profiles of these cells to answer the question—do these genes look more like healthy cells or cancer cells?

The hope is that this will reduce the risk of undetected cancer cells persisting in the body after surgery, a scenario for which post-surgical chemotherapy is often prescribed. In many cases, the window between the surgery and when patients get their cancer screening tests back can provide an opportunity for these remnant cancer cells to gain control in distant anatomical sites.

According to the researchers, MinION simplifies and accelerates real-time cancer screening. “It’s a lot less complicated than sequencing the whole genome. If the results turn out positive, [the surgeon] continues with a designated abdominal cavity chemotherapy treatment.”

“Afterwards, he performs a saline washing, takes another sample and repeats the cycle again, until we ensure that the patient is free of cancer cells. With a simple but smart application based on existing technology, we can outline a lifesaving medical treatment,” said Prof. Noam Shomron, a researcher who led the study.

Looking forward, Shomron and colleagues can see a future where this technology can extend beyond the context of surgery but also as an at-home cancer screen using a simple blood test.

Sources: Tel Aviv UniversityOxford Nanopore Technologies.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
DEC 01, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Breathing New Life Into COVID Diagnostics
DEC 01, 2020
Breathing New Life Into COVID Diagnostics
Widespread diagnostic testing capacities are an absolutely critical tool for countries battling the pandemic. For now, m ...
DEC 14, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
STR Genotyping for Human Sample Identification
DEC 14, 2020
STR Genotyping for Human Sample Identification
Human sample identification is an essential element of many research projects employing human cells, tissues, or mixture ...
DEC 08, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
"Honey, I Shrunk the PCR."
DEC 08, 2020
"Honey, I Shrunk the PCR."
In the 1530s, hundreds of years before microscopes and Petri dishes, an Italian physician called Girolamo Fracastoro wro ...
DEC 22, 2020
Cardiology
A New 3D Imaging Method for Atherosclerosis Analysis in Mice
DEC 22, 2020
A New 3D Imaging Method for Atherosclerosis Analysis in Mice
Imaging in research may not sound glamorous, but how else would news stories get those cool looking science photos for t ...
DEC 29, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Injectable Heart Health Tracker Now Picks Up COVID Red Flags
DEC 29, 2020
Injectable Heart Health Tracker Now Picks Up COVID Red Flags
The statistics are a real eye-opener: in the United States, one person dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease ...
MAR 22, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Good Dog! Man's Best Friend Sniffs Out Prostate Cancer.
MAR 22, 2021
Good Dog! Man's Best Friend Sniffs Out Prostate Cancer.
Trained dogs can spot aggressive prostate cancers by detecting trace amounts of chemical biomarkers in urine samples, sa ...
Loading Comments...