Non-invasive device improves cancer monitoring, diagnosis

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Diagnosing and monitoring prostate cancer requires patients undergo invasive biopsies. Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) are changing how physicians do such actions with the development of a new non-invasive, filter-like device.

The device, developed by WSU chemistry professor Clifford Berkman and colleagues, is able to isolate prostate cancer indicators in blood and urine samples. Composed of glass springs laid out on a mat, it is equipped with biomarkers that attract exosomes filled with genetic information. This information tells physicians the composition and progression of the cancer without the need for an invasive biopsy. This information can then be used to decide on an individual's best treatment options.

"Say you have a urine sample from a patient known to have prostate cancer. You could pass the urine through the device we are in the process of putting together and measure the number of exosomes that are specifically from prostate cancer cells," said Grant Norton, professor of mechanical and materials engineering at WSU. "The physician would propose a treatment plan and the amount of exosomes in a follow-up urine sample would indicate how effective the treatment was."

Researchers believe that this technology could be adapted to diagnose and treat a variety of cancers and diseases.

"It wouldn't be a big step to imagine applying what we are doing now to breast cancer or pancreatic cancer," said Norton. "It opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities."