A team of researchers from the University of New South Wales (NSW) have developed a new system that can potentially lower the cost of cancer treatment using biochip filters that identify and remove cancer cells. The team refers to the process as “dialysis for cancer.”
“We are simply getting the blood from the patient, it’s a mixture of normal blood cells and cancer cells,” explains Dr Majid Warkiani, who leads the team of researchers in NSW. “We put it inside one of our biochips and the cells go under migration, and they get affected by hydrodynamic forces. Under those forces that we are applying to the cells inside the chip, the bigger cells go up to the cancer cell outlet, and the smaller cells get pushed down and essentially they get fractionated, they get separated.”
For patients in the early stages of cancer, the process can also be used to lower the chance of the cancer metastasizing by using the method to cleanse the blood of circulating tumor cells.
Cancer patients require regular scans to check and make sure that their tumors are shrinking. These procedures can cost around $700. Using the biochip to track and monitor the level of cancer cells in the patient’s blood could offer the same efficiency at a fraction of the cost—anywhere from $50 to $100.
In addition, using the biochip to cleanse the blood of cancer cells can lower the chances of the cancer spreading and relapse.
This revolutionary method comes in the wake of recent cancer research developments that can hopefully finally provide a way to effectively manage, if not eradicate, the disease.
“There is still a long way to go – including securing money and support in Australia – before this is possible,” Warkiani adds. But with proper funding and support, the study can be rolled out in Australian hospitals in a couple of years.
The researchers behind this study are hoping that this new discovery can make inroads in cancer research and management.