Of all the potential applications offered by technological advances, healthcare has the most at stake. While mobile devices offer convenience and connectedness, and the cloud boosts productivity and efficiency, progress in healthcare could save lives and offer less invasive options for patients.
Cancer detection, specifically, is becoming more predictive, more effective and less intrusive. New developments from healthcare researchers are giving patients better options for cancer treatment and allowing providers to more accurately analyze their clients' needs.
Google designs cancer-detecting pills
A new nano-particle pill from Google has the ability to find cancer or other malignancies within a person's body through minimally invasive means, reported The Guardian. The concept is that a patient could swallow one of these pills, which are coated with thousands of magnetic particles containing proteins or antibodies. The particles could discover biomarker molecules within the body that indicate cancer or other diseases.
"Essentially, the idea is simple: you just swallow a pill with the nano-particles, which are decorated with antibodies or molecules that detect other molecules," Andrew Conrad, head of life sciences inside Google's research lab, explained in the WSJD Live conference on Tuesday, according to The Guardian. "They course through your body and because the cores of these particles are magnetic, you can call them somewhere and ask them what they saw."
That means that simply by taking a pill, waiting for its contents to distribute through the bloodstream, and wearing a smart watch or similar device, patients can discover tumors that might otherwise only be visible through more invasive surgical techniques. Additionally, the nano-particles could be engineered to contain molecules that fight the cancerous cells or whatever other disease may be present.
Stanford takes on bladder cancer detection
Developers at Stanford University's School of Medicine are working on an imaging technology that would target evasive, hard-to-detect bladder cancer in patients, according to a research paper from Stanford Medicine. Until now, the best method for such analysis was called endoscopy and involved using a camera to see inside the patients bladder. Through the new procedure, doctors can better distinguish bladder cancer from regular tissue, thereby reducing the need for surgery.
"What you'd really like to do is decide how dangerous the tumor is in the office," said Eila Skinner, MD, professor and chair of urology and a co-author of the paper. "Doing a biopsy is not a really difficult thing to do, but it's really hard on the patient."
The imaging technique is possible due to the identification of a protein associated with bladder cancer. The protein, called CD47, is present in most cells – it sends a message to the immune system not to attack the cell. Bladder cancer produces far more CD47 than regular cells. The Stanford researchers theorized that by blocking protein's signal in cancerous cells, the immune system could be more effective against cancer.
"We hypothesized if it's a good therapeutic target and it's also expressed on the surface of the cancer cells, it may be a good imaging target," said co-senior author Joseph Liao, MD, an associate professor of urology at Stanford.
As bladder cancer biopsies are particularly uncomfortable and invasive for patients, and bladder cancer itself has a high recurrence rate, the enhanced imaging would allow healthcare providers to offer their patients better quality of life and less stress.
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