A microchip sensor that can monitor tumor growth can replace scanning some day.
The sensor, developed at the Technical University, Munich, is implanted close to a tumor to track oxygen levels in the nearby tissue. When the oxygen levels rise, clearly tumor is expanding. The results are instantly transmitted to the patient's doctor.
"The microelectronic chip has a set of electrodes that detect oxygen saturation. It transmits this sensor data to an external receiving unit that's like a small box you carry around in your pocket," explains project manager Sven Becker.
"From there it goes into the doctor's PC - and they can look at the data and decide whether the tumor activity is getting worse."
The medical engineers also hope that the device could also help track and treat tumors that are difficult to reach, or better left alone.
"There are some tumors which are hard to remove - for example, close to the spine. You run the risk of cutting the nerve if you remove them surgically. Or the problem may be that the tumor is growing slowly, but the patient is elderly," said Becker.
"In these cases it's better to monitor the tumor, and only treat it if there's a strong growth phase."
Future designs will include a medication pump that can deliver drugs directly to the affected area.
Researchers hope this will lead to less aggressive and more targeted cancer treatments.
The researchers are also hoping to add a medication pump to the chip so that it can release chemotherapeutic drugs close to a tumor if treatment is needed.
Thus the sensor could turn out to be more effective and less toxic for future cancer patients.