Though this technology initially is funded for drug development, it can be used for other high-throughput molecular screening applications, such as in cancer studies. Such an application would work in a similar way as the tests for potential drug candidates. A small biological sample suspected of being cancerous would be extracted from a patient using a nearly painless technique fine needle aspiration. Nanoparticles known to bond with that particular form of cancer would then be exposed to the biological sample, and medical professionals would be able to determine if cancer is present depending on whether or not the nanoparticles and biological samples bond. Should bonding occur, the presence of cancerous cells would be confirmed.
The key advantage of such a system, Willson said, is that it would combine the non-invasive nature of fine needle aspiration with the reliability of conventional highly invasive techniques, such as open surgery. This would provide results with far greater accuracy than traditional testing methods.
The way they evaluate fine needle aspiration biopsies for the presence of cancer is by looking at a biological sample under a microscope, relying heavily on the experience of the person evaluating the sample and the quality of the sample, he said. Here, the idea is to automate the process to make it foolproof and
Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston