Implantable device could track tumor growth

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have reportedly developed the first implantable device that can monitor a tumor for weeks or months after a biopsy, tracking its growth and how it responds to treatment.

The medical device has the ability to repeatedly sample the local environment for tumor biomarker, chemotherapeutic agent and tumor metabolite concentrations--which could lead to earlier metastasis detection and more personalized therapy, according to Michael Cima, MIT professor of materials science and engineering, and developer of the in vivo sensor device.

In a paper published online in the April issue of Biosensors & Bioelectronics, Cima and his colleagues reported that the device successfully tracked a tumor marker in mice for one month.

The device, which could be implanted at the time of biopsy, could also be tailored to monitor whether chemotherapy agents are reaching tumors. They can also be designed to measure pH or oxygen levels, which reveal tumor metabolism and how it is responding to therapy, the researchers noted.

"This is one of the tools we're going to need if we're going to turn cancer from a death sentence to a manageable disease," he said.

The cylindrical, 5-millimeter implant contains magnetic nanoparticles coated with antibodies specific to the target molecules. Target molecules enter the implant through a semi-permeable membrane, bind to the particles and cause them to clump together--clumping that can be detected by MRI.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and the National Science Foundation funded the research.