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Biosensors for cancer diagnosis

New bio-analytical methodologies capable of detecting specific biomarkers are today essential for better diagnosis of pathologies. European researchers have coordinated their efforts to introduce nanosensors capable of detecting a range of new biomarkers in biological samples. Current molecular tests routinely used for cancer diagnosis lack sensitivity or are only applicable for advanced stages of the disease. Consequently, new tools capable of assessing the molecular profile of tumors, whether at the genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic, or protein level, are now used. 

Biosensors for cancer diagnosis

The objective of the SMARTCANCERSENS project, funded by the EU, was precisely to coordinate the collaboration of European and international partners to obtain the introduction of new methodologies capable of detecting specific biomarkers of cancer. Project work focused on the development of ultra-sensitive devices based on nanostructured electronic sensors adapted to medical laboratories. The devices would then be able to detect different biomarkers, including very small molecules, metal ions, enzymes, or proteins associated with cancer. 

During the first phase of the project, the researchers focused their work on the immobilization of bio and nanomaterials on different conductive surfaces. This research included fixation, the deposition, and crosslinking of a whole range of innovative materials on transducers, which thus acquire the desired analytical parameters for optimization of sensitivity and selectivity. The chemical or enzymatic transformation of the sensor is proportional to the concentration of the target molecule in the biological sample. The team then tested and optimized the sensitivity, specificity, dynamic response range, reliability, and operational stability of these devices. To improve the output sensitivity of the electronic sensor, the researchers also developed recognition membranes on the nanometric scale. 

Using the therapeutic molecule tamoxifen as a model, the researchers evaluated the possibility of therapeutic control of drug-using mobile phone interfaces for chemical recognition. They also assessed the viability of in situ detection of cancer cells based on their selective binding followed by detection without radioactive labeling. The SMART CANCERSENS project thus made it possible to generate devices capable of being used in a certain number of biomedical applications, including that of the therapeutic monitoring of drugs. They will thus be able to complete costly and time-consuming clinical tests and considerably speed up the analysis of samples. Above all, they will allow the establishment of an accurate and reliable diagnosis. They also assessed the viability of in situ detection of cancer cells based on their selective binding. 

A biosensor that diagnoses cancer with a blood sample

The European Ultraplacad consortium, made up of 13 centers of excellence, will develop a prototype by 2017 due to which it will be possible to identify the tumor without the need for biopsy. The technique will be tested in southern Europe at the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute.

When the biosensor is developed, it will have to identify the tumor with a simple blood sample.

With a simple blood sample and without the need for a biopsy, it will be possible to have information on the presence or absence of a tumor. A 'revolution' is possible due to a nano-photonic biosensor capable of exploiting light to detect infinitesimal quantities of tumor markers. This is the project idea deemed best among more than 450 proposals received by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 financing scheme and which will be created by Ultraplacad, a European consortium made up of 13 centers of world excellence. The Consortium, with the support of the European Commission, will build an industrial laboratory prototype by 2017 that will be clinically tested at the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute.

A nano-photonic biosensor:

For the first time, they can be detected through light, particularly in patients with colorectal cancer, mutated genes, and other microRNA changes. In fact, the sensor will be able to read light beams coming out of a microfluidic circuit. With a simple blood sample and without the need to resort to tissue biopsy, it will be possible to have information on the presence or absence of the disease. Ultraplacad is an acronym that means: "ultrasensitive detection of tumors with plasmonic methods." The system developed shows how the tumor marker, for example, a gene mutation, is captured in the biosensor and how this signal is converted into light through an amplification system based on nano-particles and is then captured by a plasmonic biosensor. "Capturing photonic signals that is light that for years has been dealing with nano-immune-theranostics is cutting-edge technology. Light, is an entity that we like to think immaterial; can provide us with concrete and practical answers to everyday diagnostic problems? Moreover, it will help us to treat more and more patients through non-invasive blood samples optimally ".

The advantages:

Many call this new method 'liquid biopsy.’ Experts believe that the Ultraplacad biosensor will give real-time indications on the extent and spread of the tumor. They are the best therapeutic options, on the response of the disease to therapies. It will, therefore, be possible to monitor patients for the entire course of the disease, repeatedly. Through a simple blood sample, it is beneficial for both the patient and the doctor, who can continuously have the clinical-pathological 'pulse' of his patient.

Use of biosensors in prostate cancer

Biosensors are used in prostate cancer monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of therapies and the evolution of cancer. Furthermore, these tools could help plan some treatments such as radiotherapy, when the tumor is weaker, thus making it more vulnerable. Being able to intervene with radiotherapy at the right time would guarantee a better cost-benefit ratio, an optimal patient response, and fewer side effects.

According to research by the University of Edinburgh, published in the British journal Science as Culture, men with prostate cancer have shown great interest in the possibility of using biosensors. It is because this disease threatens their masculinity, and the use of prostheses or similar tools would allow them to maintain control and act in response to major side effects.

The individuals studied by this analysis had undergone radiation therapy and were in the healing phase. During the radiotherapy cycle, they had been implanted with the golden seeds, radioactive sources positioned inside the prostate, which remain in the patient's body at the end of the treatment. As a resultBiosensors for cancer diagnosis, these people were already used to having an object installed in their body for therapeutic purposes.


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