By Mark Waghorn via SWNS
A smartphone app that measures tiny changes in the size of tumors has been developed at Stanford University.
It connects to a sticker, resembling a band-aid, that detects alterations to a hundredth of a millimeter, offering faster and more accurate drug screening.
Results are beamed in real-time with the press of a button. A stretchable polymer includes an embedded layer of gold circuitry.
The 'Hands-free FAST' (Flexible Autonomous Sensor measuring Tumours) device costs only around $60 USD and could revolutionize treatment.
The first author Dr. Alex Abramson, of Stanford University's School of Engineering, California, said: "It is a deceptively simple design.
"But these inherent advantages should be very interesting to the pharmaceutical and oncological communities.
"FAST could significantly expedite, automate and lower the cost of the process of screening cancer therapies."
Patients have far more options now than even a decade ago and in many cases, the disease can be completely eradicated.
Drug resistance is one of the most challenging problems.
Knowing when a tumor starts would enable doctors to prescribe alternatives at the earliest opportunity.
FAST is battery-operated and non-invasive, opening the door to fresh directions in oncology.
Each year thousands of potential drugs are tested on mice with tumors. Few make it to patients.
The process is slow because techniques for analyzing regression from drug intake take weeks.
Inherent biological variation, shortcomings of existing approaches and relatively small sample sizes make screening difficult and labor-intensive.
Dr. Adamson said: "In some cases, the tumors under observation must be measured by hand with calipers."
Using metal pincers on soft tissues is not ideal. Radiological methods cannot deliver continuous data needed for real-time assessment.
Observation periods can last weeks. FAST picks up changes in tumor volume on a minute-timescale. The sensor is connected to a small electronic backpack.
The device measures the strain on the polymer, or membrane - how much it stretches or shrinks. It transmits the information to a smartphone.
Potential therapies can quickly and confidently be excluded as ineffective - or fast-tracked for further study.
FAST provides continuous monitoring. It is physically connected to the mouse and remains in place over the entire experiment.
It enshrouds the tumor - monitoring shape changes that are otherwise difficult to discern with other methods.
The reusable device, described in the journal Science Advances, is also autonomous and wireless.
It is attached in minutes to a mouse - which is free to move unencumbered.
The gold, when stretched, develops small cracks that change the electrical conductivity of the material and can be mathematically equated with tumor dimension and volume.
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