A device implanted in the body to track the growth of tumors

Researchers from the "Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed the first implantable device capable of monitoring the growth of tumors in mice and its response to treatment. The results published in the April issue of the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics announced the development of miniaturized devices dedicated to real-time monitoring of the development of tumors for weeks or months following an initial biopsy.

Doctors use a biopsy to diagnose with certainty the nature of a cancerous tumor. This type of invasive procedure is accurate but has views of the tumor only at a given moment it can not accurately manage anticancer therapy. "With the biopsy, when you get the results it is too late to prevent metastasis," says Michael Cima, Professor of engineering and materials science at MIT. The ability to regularly probe the environment of the tumor, to assay biomarkers and therapeutic agents could improve the early detection of metastases and enable better personalized therapy.

In the study of Prof. Cima and colleagues, human tumors producing human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) were implanted in mice, and researchers have brought their system to track the levels of HCG. The system was tested for a month with success. It consists of a cylindrical polyethylene implant of 5 mm, containing magnetic nanoparticles made of polycarbonate. These nanoparticles are surrounded by specific antibodies against target molecules. When the target molecules enter the implant through a semi-permeable membrane, they bind to the nanoparticles. This connection can then be detected by MRI.

This device, which could be implanted at the time of biopsy, would be adaptable to follow the chemotherapy drugs, allowing doctors to know whether the anticancer drugs have actually reached their target. It could be used to monitor the level of pH and oxygen, which are markers of the metabolism of tumors. It is a tool to improve the control of cancer development, explains Prof. Cima. One day, these devices can provide real time information on the state of growth or regression of a tumor, the response to treatment, or development of metastases.

An implant can be used to test the pH level could be available for marketing in the next few years, followed by devices for testing complex molecules such as hormones or drugs.

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