A tiny implant when placed in mice was found to capture cancer cells that are spreading through the body. This implant was developed by scientists from the United States.
Cancer is said to be metastatic cancer when cancer cells travel away from the primary tumors and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer cells usually circulate through the bloodstream to reach other sites, but they may also travel through the lymph system. These circulating cancer cells bind to the wall of a blood or lymph vessel and make their way to a new organ where new tumors are created.
Diagnosis and life-saving treatment can be made faster with early detection of circulating tumor cells or CTCs in the bloodstream. But these wandering cancer cells are very hard to spot as they may travel in very small numbers and usually for long periods of time before settling in a new site.
The study, that is published in the journal Nature Communication
, suggests that capturing CTCs would prevent their spread and help halt disease progression.
"Animals receiving an implant had a significantly reduced burden of disease in their lungs relative to animals that did not have an implant," told study co-author Lonnie Shea at Northwestern University in Illinois.
The implant that used immune cells as a bait also contained a scanner that detects the presence of trapped cells. "The combined systems can enable the early detection of metastatic disease," said Shea. "The initial benefit is detection -- catching the metastasis before it spreads widely throughout the body," he explained. "However... the opportunity to reduce burden (of cell spread) can potentially extend the period of time over which therapies may be effective."
The implant also collected metastasized cancer cells for analysis thus making it easier to identify the best treatment. There was no reason to believe the results achieved in lab mice could not be replicated in humans, said Shea.
"The main idea of cells colonizing organs is the same between mice and humans, and while some of the details may change, we think we can build that into the design of our implant." Shea said he hoped clinical trials with human cancer sufferers could begin soon.