Topic: Damon Runyon Research Foundation, April Scientist of the month
April Scientist of the Month: Dr. Daniel Haber
Finding One Cancer Cell in a Billion
Talk about finding a needle in a haystack - how about finding one cancer cell in a billion?
That is exactly what a new technology the size of a business card can do.A research team led by NFCR Scientist, Dr. Daniel Haber, at Massachusetts General Hospital, has found a way to detect cancer cells in the blood with a tiny device, called a CTC Chip.
The CTC Chip (CTC stands for "Circulating Tumor Cells") has 78,000 microscopic columns that trap rare cancer cells with a glue-like substance. Using a spoonful of blood, a physician can determine not only if the patient has cancer, but also which treatments might be most effective for the particular type of cancer. After capturing the cancer cell, the CTC Chip takes a "genetic fingerprint" of the cancer. Then, the most effective drug for that particular type of cancer can be custom-fitted for treatment.
The CTC Chip, though still in developmental stages, is being heralded as a huge improvement over standard biopsies and CAT scans to track the progress of a cancer. Oftentimes, standard scans may take months to show whether a tumor is growing-time a patient frequently cannot afford. While there is still much work to be done, the CTC Chip can drastically speed up the process, revolutionizing cancer care.
While the existence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) has been known for roughly 140 years, CTCs have eluded researchers because they are so rare-as few as 10 may be lurking in one milliliter of blood, among eight billion normal cells-and because there has not been technology sensitive enough to efficiently capture them-until now.
"The big hope is that we may be able to find the cancer cells that are capable of spreading from the primary tumor to distant sites," says Dr. Haber. "This would allow physicians to detect invasive cancers early, follow how well cancers are responding to treatments in