Against cancer cells, wandering through the bloodstreamsystem, scientists from the University of Arkansas have developed a new weapon: a laser beam that, when directed to the skin, penetrates the blood vessels and destroys these little killers in place, preventing them from accumulating in the body in the form of metastases. A study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine reported that researchers conducted successful tests of their system, accurately identifying and destroying cancer cells in 27 of the 28 volunteers who participated in clinical trials.
Effective cancer diagnosis
The developers report that their installation was1000 times more accurate than other similar devices that exist today. This is an achievement in itself, however, the researchers emphasize that their system was able to destroy a high percentage of cancer cells in real time.
With further development, experts sayUniversity of Arkansas, doctors will be able to get a quick, painless and non-invasive way to find and destroy cancer cells before they begin to form new tumors in the body.
“This technology has the potential to significantly inhibit the siteization process,” says Vladimir Zharov, director of the center of nanomedicine at the University of Arkansas.
Spreading cancer cells ormetastasis is the leading cause of cancer mortality. It occurs when cancer cells are separated from the main focus of the disease and begin to move around the body inside the circulatory as well as the lymphatic systems, eventually settling in other parts of the body and forming secondary tumors.
If you destroy these embolic tumorscells still in the bloodstream, not allowing them to metastasize to other tissues, this will save many lives. Even just being able to count the number of these embolic tumor cells — a task that none of the previously developed devices could effectively cope with — would allow more accurate diagnosis and treatment of metastatic cancer.
Zharov together with his team of specialiststhey tested the system they developed in humans with melanoma (skin cancer). A laser aimed at a vein sends energy to the blood, creating heat. Cancer cells absorb much more of this heat energy than normal ones. Heat causes these cells to expand and collapse. This thermal expansion creates sound waves — a photoacoustic effect that can be registered with a compact ultrasonic transducer that fits on the patient's skin near the site of the laser beam. This device reads when embolic tumor cells pass through the bloodstream under the laser.
With the help of the same laser, scientists coulddemonstrate the process of destruction of embolic tumor cells in real time. The heat generated by the laser produces vapor bubbles on the surface of the tumor cell. When expanding, these vapor bubbles burst, affecting the cell, destroying it mechanically. Imagine a video game in which you destroy the bad guys with a laser. The process of destroying cancer cells here is similar.
The purpose of this study, the developers notelaser, was checking the accuracy of the device in determining cancer cells. But even with the low-energy diagnostic mode, the device was able to destroy a significant number of embolic tumor cells in the blood of six patients. According to Zharov, in one patient, the device was able to destroy 96 percent of the cancer cells. The scientist and his colleagues note that the efficiency of the installation can be much higher in future studies when they use the device at a higher power.
Zharov came to the idea of this technology for more than tenyears ago. Since then, the scientist has conducted her animal testing, demonstrating its safety by the FDA Commission, which issued a permit for human clinical installation tests. Zharov states that this device is the first non-invasive diagnostic device for detecting tumor cells circulating in the blood.
How else is cancer diagnosed?
To date, at leasthundreds of different device designed to monitor embolic tumor cells. However, most of these systems involve the taking of blood from a vein and its subsequent analysis outside the patient's body. However, only one device, at least in the United States, received approval for use by the FDA. It is called CellSearch, and is about the size of an oven. At the same time, it allows for the collection of only small blood samples, on the basis of which creates a general picture of cancer cells that may be present in the entire circulatory system. It is clear that due to such low efficiency this device is not widely used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
In April of this year, Michigan expertsUniversity announced the creation of a more compact device that is attached to the arm of the patient and pumps the blood in the body, cleansing it from cancer cells. However, again, testing dogs in the laboratory showed that the device is able to process only two tablespoons of blood in two to three hours.
The device developed by Zharov and his teamable to process a liter of blood in about an hour. At the same time without the need for its transfer from the body. The sensitivity of this system is about a thousand times higher than that of the CellSearch device, say the developers. In the future, Zharov and the team plan to test their facility with more people, combining the results with traditional cancer treatments to see the effectiveness of this approach in solving the problem of metastasis.
By the way, the photoacoustic effect was for the first timedescribed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880 when developing a photofon - a device for transmitting sounds to a distance through light. The device developed by Zharov was named “cytophone” (“cytophone”, “cyto” from English - “cell”).
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