Cancer: soon to be detected thanks to a simple blood test? – Science and the future

Cancer detection may become easier in the future. An Australian team has just developed a device capable of identifying tumor cells in the blood. The gesture is much less severe than a biopsy, which consists in taking a piece of the tumor for analysis, which for the moment remains a classic procedure. The achievement is described in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

circulating tumor cells

As cancer develops, some cancer cells can break away from solid tumors and enter the bloodstream. Then they can settle in other parts of the body, forming metastases. “These are circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Tumor cells also die, decay, and release fragments of their genetic material, circulating tumor DNA (cDNA), into the bloodstream. Cancer cells can also shed exosomes containing genetic material and proteins. , CTCs and exosomes are markers for the presence of cancer cells, which can now be detected with a simple blood test or “liquid biopsy,” explains the National Cancer Institute (INCa). However, it is still difficult to use circulating tumor cells in clinical practice. They are indeed rare, so they require a lot of instrument sensitivity to detect them, but they are also very heterogeneous, requiring good success in differentiating them. So far, no universal marker has been found for these cells.

Detection of the amount of lactate

It is known that cancer cells consume more glucose than other cells in the body. In addition, they produce significant amounts of lactate, a breakdown product of glucose. It is the device, developed in Australia, that is able to determine the amount of lactate in cells thanks to fluorescent dyes. At an acidic pH of the medium, dyes are activated under the action of lactates. In total, the machine includes “38,400 compartments designed to isolate, classify and enumerate tumor cells,” the study explains. To succeed in differentiating different tumor cells, the team compared the leukocyte (leukocyte) activity of healthy donors to that of cancer cells from a metabolic standpoint. That is, all metabolites (sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, polyphenols, etc.) present in the cell were compared in order to properly differentiate them. Molecular genetic analysis allows you to establish a complete diagnosis of the patient.

This device, dubbed the Static Droplet Microfluidic, is still under development before it can be used in hospitals. An Australian team has just applied for a patent. In the long term, this can make it easier to detect the onset of cancer, as well as to track the appearance of metastases.

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