New cancer test can diagnose aggressive tumors in just two hours

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The test can accurately differentiate between benign, non-metastatic, and metastatic tumors within hours of biopsy.

By DONNA RACHEL EDMUNDS  –  The Jerusalem Post

Cancer illustrative

(photo credit: PIXABAY)

A new test for cancer significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to identify metastatic cancer cells, potentially buying cancer patients precious time with which to defeat the disease, researchers have said.

The spread of cancer cells from the original tumor to other parts of the body, known as metastasis, is currently responsible for 90% of cancer related deaths. But Professor Daphne Weihs of the Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering has developed a new test which can identify aggressive cancer cells within two hours, allowing doctors to start their patients on potentially life saving treatment before the cancer spreads.

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The test involves spreading cells harvested from the tumor onto a specialized gel that mimics the texture of tissues in the body and measuring how far into the gel the cells embed themselves within two hours. Counting the number of cells, and measuring how deeply they embed into the gel, accurately predicts how likely the tumor is to be metastatic. Cancerous cells will invade the gel to a cell’s depth within one to two hours, they noted, making the test fast as well as accurate.

So far, Professor Weihs and her team have successfully trialed the test using pancreatic tumor samples collected from volunteers at the Ramban Health Care campus, and comparing the results to current tests. They found that the results were in line not only with standard diagnostic tools, but also prognosis and patient outcomes. Consequently, they were able to prove that the new test successfully differentiates between benign (non-cancerous) tumors, non-metastatic, and metastatic samples, and at the same time accurately gauged their metastatic likelihood.

Correctly assessing the type of tumor a patient has as soon as possible is the key to increasing success when treating cancer. In the cast of rapidly progressing tumors, swift, aggressive treatment is required, either in the form of chemotherapy or surgery. Waiting for the results of tests to come back days or even weeks following a biopsy is not only therefore potentially life threatening, but is stressful for patients already dealing with a potential cancer diagnosis. Conversely, in some cases the treatment is overly aggressive, and both psychological and physical stress can be reduced by a more tempered approach.

Moreover, current methods can miss cancers completely. 30% of cancer-negative lymph node assessments in breast cancer patients fail to predict eventual metastases development, the researchers noted.

The full results of the study proving the usefulness of the new mechanobiology-based technology have been published in the scientific journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

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