Doctors are familiar with a variety of tools in their arsenal to fight cancer. But choosing the most suitable one for a patient is a difficult task.
Today's usual tumor monitoring methods are biopsies and imaging scans. Biopsies are invasive, painful, and comes with potential side effects. Scanning only offers infrequent glances at the state of the tumor.
A new implantable device developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may offer real-time tumor monitoring, offering physicians quick information on whether a therapy is having the desired effect.
The tiny biochemical sensor can be implanted in cancerous tissue during the initial biopsy. The sensor then wirelessly sends data about telltale biomarkers to an external "reader" device, allowing doctors to better monitor a patient's progress and adjust dosages or switch therapies accordingly.
Making cancer treatments more targeted and precise would boost their efficacy while reducing patients' exposure to serious side effects.
"We wanted to make a device that would give us a chemical signal about what's happening in the tumor. Rather than waiting months to see if the tumor is shrinking, you could get an early read to see if you're moving in the right direction," says Michael Cima, the David H. Koch (1962) Professor in Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and a Koch Institute investigator who oversaw the sensor's development.