Developing Devices to Capture Cancer

Developing Devices to Capture Cancer

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie Thompson

Life Saver, AMC

posted on Feb 3, 2014, at 9:50 pm


A MAJOR GOAL OF CANCER SCIENTISTS is capturing cancer as it is spreading in order to save lives. Bioengineers at Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital, The Scripps Research Institute, and other top centers are working on developing new advanced devices that could possibly attack cancer before it spreads to other parts of the body. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are the targets here since they circulate the bloodstream causing cancer metastasis (a tumor’s expansion to and from different tissues and organs).

More efficient, reliable, precise and patient-friendly cancer screening methods could be unlocked by using CTCs as the key. “As a field, we are at the dawn of a brand new day of performing human investigation that is shedding light on the evolution of the disease in individual patients,” said head of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) Physical Oncology Center, Peter Kuhn.

Blood circulates the body speedily, providing nutrients for not only normal cells but also tumors, allowing the cancerous cells to get into the vascular system and spread throughout the body. Kuhn and others are working on a fluid biopsy approach to use these liquid-phase cells as an aid to earlier diagnosis and to a more accurate prediction on how the patient’s body will react to certain treatments.

Tiny technologies such as Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), mounted on chip-based probes, are emerging from Massachusetts General Hospital’s BioMEMS Resource Center in Boston to find these small and rare CTCs. Harvard bioengineer Mehmet Toner is working on a MEMS system composed of a silicon chamber with thousands of tiny columns that gather and separate cancer cells from a blood sample. After this project is finished and approved, this CTC-Chip device would only require a simple, rather painless pinprick as opposed to what is now done by surgery.

Researchers in private companies and university research centers everywhere are developing more technologies for fluid biopsies, some improving the CTC-Chips and others finding similar devices. According to Kuhn, the technology will advance and gain complexity. “The fluid biopsy has the very real potential of advancing cancer care towards predictive personalized treatment for every patient at every doctor’s visit.”

To read the full article and more about developing fluid biopsies, visit ASME

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

Contact Mackenzie at

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *