Diagnosing cancer early enough to effectively treat it is difficult, but a new early warning system could change that. Researchers with ETH Zurich have developed a bio-implant that creates an artificial mole when it detects one of four types of cancer. The system works by detecting calcium levels in the blood; high levels for a prolonged period of time indicate a tumor may be growing somewhere in the body.
Though certain types of cancer, such as skin cancer, may be fairly easy to detect early on, other types of cancer can remain hidden until symptoms become severe. As the researchers point out, colon cancer only has a cure rate of 11% due to the difficulty in early detection, and prostate cancer isn’t much better at 32%.
The four most common cancer types — colon, prostate, breast, and lung — can be spotted early by detecting elevated calcium levels in the blood, however. Taking advantage of that is this newly developed early warning system, which comes in the form of an implant.
Once implanted into the patient’s skin, the system works by monitoring calcium levels. If those levels go beyond a certain point for a long enough period of time, the system triggers the production of melanin resulting in a brown mole.
This mole will show up “long before the cancer becomes detectable through conventional diagnosis,” the researchers explain, enabling doctors to start treatment at a very, very early stage. However, due to limitations with the underlying technology, researchers indicate the implant could need replaced every few years to remain effective.
SOURCE: ETH Zurich