Cancer: soon a portable device to monitor the size of tumors?

Cancer soon a portable device to monitor the size of

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    The technology, in the form of a simple sensor placed on the skin, could make it possible to test in real time the effect of treatments on the size of the tumors detected.

    If new technologies are becoming frequent to capture medical data in real time (heart rate, glucose level, etc.), sensors are not yet used frequently in the field of cancer. It may be soon, according to a new study, conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and published in the journal Science Advances September 16, 2022. The team has indeed developed a device in the form of sensors on the skin that could follow the evolution of cancerous tumors in real time, and without resorting to imaging. The technique is tested on mice but is promising.

    A sensitive sensor placed directly on the skin

    The technology in question is a wearable device developed by Dr. Abramson and his team. Its implementation remains for the time being under study, tested on mice. It consists of a stretchable polymer membrane like a second skin, integrated with a layer of gold circuitry. The team explains it: the sensor sticks to the skin above where a cancerous tumor is currently located. The sensor also has a small electronic “backpack” containing its battery. As the tumor grows or shrinks, the sensor stretches or contracts with it. The device then measures the voltage experienced by the sensor.

    The measurements collected in real time are transmitted via a mobile phone application, thanks to which doctors can obtain live measurement data as well as a history, even remotely.

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    Less invasive, faster technology

    For the team of researchers, the implementation of this type of sensor would have multiple benefits, whether in the implementation of a protocol or for the comfort of the person affected by a tumour.

    Indeed, to determine the size of a cancerous tumor and monitor it, health professionals today use diagnostic imaging, X-rays or MRI. Be that as it may, these measures mobilize significant human intervention on the part of caregivers, as well as non-negligible costs. Conversely, this device would cost today about 60 dollars to manufacture piecemeal but industrial production could drastically bring down this price.

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    Another advantage: simplified monitoring. Today, due to the use of imaging, tumor measurements can only be taken at certain stages, due to the labor and cost associated with the procedures. According to Dr. Abramson, the study’s first author, the wearable sensor means a doctor could take measurements continuously without any additional cost or labor. “It is the first tool to provide real-time analysis of tumor regression in vivo” he says. Thus, this sensor would also make it possible to see the first effects of the treatment undertaken in the space of just a few days, without waiting. If necessary, a readjustment of the treatment could be initiated much earlier.

    This promising technology, however, requires further investigation: the model is currently only tested on mice, and it is difficult to know if it will be as sensitive in humans.

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