A relatively low-cost new device the size of a credit card could lead to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in just minutes. The technology holds promise as an important step in diagnosing the disease at an earlier stage and saving more lives.
University of Washington scientists and engineers have developed a prototype that can process a biopsy in a fraction of the time current methods require, according to Medical News Today. They presented their findings at an SPIE Photonics West conference and have filed a patent for the device and any future upgrades.
The pancreas, a 6-inch fish-shaped organ, sits behind the stomach and extends in a horizontal line across the abdomen. It has two basic types of cells, each of which forms different types of tumors, the American Cancer Society says. Exocrine cells make a pancreatic fluid with digestive enzymes released into the intestines. The most common type of pancreatic tumor is an exocrine tumor. Around 95 percent of them are adenocarcinomas, with the remainder representing at least half a dozen other types.
About 5 percent of the pancreas consists of endocrine cells arranged in clusters known as islets. They release hormones like insulin into the blood. Endocrine pancreatic tumors are uncommon.
According to the National Cancer Institute, experts estimated 45,220 new cases of pancreatic cancer and 38,460 deaths from the disease in 2013. The lifetime risk for developing this deadly cancer is 1.5 percent. The rate of five-year survival is only 6 percent. By the time patients experience symptoms and get a diagnosis, their cancer typically is already advanced.
The prototype of the new device uses fluid transport to go through the traditional steps of processing a biopsy. It helps pathologists make a quicker diagnosis and one that shows more precisely the degree of invasiveness of any cancer detected by using 3-D imaging on whole tissue biopsies, instead of examining stained slices of specimens on slides.
The device is silicon. It has a thick but flexible structure roughly the size of a credit card. The design permits tissue to pass through transparent channels filled with microfluid and is the first to allow tissue samples with multiple cells to move through a device for analysis.
Researchers used technology that permits tissue to move forward though tiny channels or easily stop without the necessity of using a lot of external force. The device makes it possible for healthcare personnel to avoid handling any tissue. Instead, a syringe can deposit tissue collected during a biopsy into the device.
The prototype is going through various stages of enhancement, including 3-D imaging and the potential of layers of channels. One possible application is use as an over-the-counter kit to process biopsies overseas, then forward information to remote pathologists for analysis. Diagnosing a malignancy could eventually take just minutes, the scientists say.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands or print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- pancreatic cancer
- American Cancer Society