Inspired by his wife’s struggle with breast cancer, Ed Flynn is working on ultra-sensitive techniques for the early detection and possible treatment of cancer.
The super-sensitive sensors can detect cancer cells in far smaller concentrations than current technology can – meaning earlier detection and treatment, they say.
“My bottom line is it’s much more sensitive, (spotting) fewer cells at a much earlier stage of the disease,” Larson said. “You could detect cancer or Alzheimer’s noninvasively. We can’t do that right now.”
Early detection is key, said Flynn, who decided to explore biomagnetism for diagnosis after his wife got breast cancer.
Flynn, who specializes in measuring weak magnetic fields, and Larson, who has expertise in building the kind of particles needed, formed a collaboration.
The researchers said similar techniques are used in heart and brain imaging, but they’re the only ones adapting it to detect disease.
Their studies focus on noninvasive detection of breast and ovarian cancer and Alzheimer’s, spotting kidney transplant rejection early and doing better bone marrow biopsies for leukemia. All of the research centers around superconducting quantum interference devices, called SQUIDs, and their ability to use magnetic nanoparticles targeting small clusters of cells.
he technique can target as few as 50,000 cancer cells, they said. Traditional X-ray or ultrasound imaging techniques need 100 million cells to detect cancer or organ rejection.