A team of MIT engineers has developed a new nanoparticle sensor that can detect cancer at an early stage using a simple piece of paper and a urine sample.
When the nanoparticles detect a tumor, they start shedding short DNA sequences, which are excreted in urine. By analyzing DNA “barcodes”, scientists can obtain unique information about the patient’s tumor.
The test is affordable and easy to complete, making use of a strip of paper similar to an at-home COVID test.
In experiments with mice, the sensors were able to detect the activity of five different enzymes expressed in tumors. The test can not only detect cancer, but also measure how well a patient’s tumor responds to treatment and if a tumor has come back. The team is now looking ahead to developing the particles even further in order to test on humans.
The researchers believe that the test could be particularly beneficial in low-resource areas with limited access to expensive diagnostic equipment. The low cost and simplicity of the test could allow for early detection of cancer in areas where such screenings are not readily available. It could also help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and imaging tests, which can be expensive and invasive.
While the test has shown promise in mice, the team plans to further refine the technology to make it suitable for human testing. If successful, the test could have a significant impact on cancer detection and treatment, potentially saving lives and improving outcomes for patients around the world.