Hope for New Device in Helping to Find Cancer Sooner

The new cancer cell detection device, whose development was announced on Monday by Johnson & Johnson and its inventors from Massachusetts General Hospital , could change the way doctors test for and treat cancer.

Today mammograms, colonoscopies, etc are the only, ways that we have to screen for a variety of different cancers. The hope is that this new device, which can find one cancer cell among millions of healthy cells, will bring better screening procedure for these deadly diseases.

“There’s a lot of potential here, and that’s why there’s a lot of excitement,” said Dr. Mark Kris, lung cancer chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Sloan-Kettering is another one of the four cancer centers which will be studying the test this year.

Presently, many cancers are diagnosed through needle biopsies which often do not give a large enough sample to determine the biochemical pathways or the genes that control the tumor’s unimpeded growth. Alternatively, the sample may no longer be available when the patient gets to the specialist who will prescribe his treatment.

This new tool actually captures the cancer cell, which is then available for study. Doctors can easily follow a patient’s response to drug and/or radiation therapy by looking for even just one cell, in the blood. Dr. Haber of Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the developers of this test said, “If you could find out quickly, ‘this drug is working, stay on it,’ or ‘this drug is not working, try something else,’ that would be huge.”