Editors' ChoiceBREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Point-of-care breast cancer diagnosis biochip

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Science Translational Medicine  09 Mar 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 329, pp. 329ec39
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf3859

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. The gold standard for breast cancer diagnosis is a needle biopsy where cells or tissue are removed from a suspicious area of the breast and then examined under a microscope. This test may take one to two weeks. Pandya and colleagues developed a new point-of-care diagnostic tool that assesses breast tissue quickly by measuring tissue mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties. The authors used their silicon-based “biochip,” which was outfitted with microelectromechanical sensors, to assess small cylindrical samples of cancerous, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and normal breast tissue from patients. They found the cancerous tissue to be stiffer than other tissues during indentation tests, which supports the known density of tumors. Cancerous IDC tissue also demonstrated a higher resistivity, or resistance to carrying electrical current, when compared with normal tissue. The team reported that cancerous IDC tissue appeared coarse and hypothesized that this was due to disruptions in the extracellular matrix. As a consequence, higher resistance path for current to flow exists in cancerous tissue than smooth normal tissue. When heating tissues from 25 to 50ºC with a tiny heater were placed under the sample, there was a significant difference in the thermal conductivity between normal and cancer tissues.

The authors’ biochip was integrated with a 3D-printed cartridge that enabled connections to sensors and mechanical actuators. Such an automated assessment method may not only dramatically improve turnaround time, but also stratify tissue samples according to immediacy for a pathologist. Although promising for low-cost, multimodal tissue evaluation, the ability to grade tumors, or convey their aggressiveness, with the tool remains to be determined.

H. Pandya et al., Towards a portable cancer diagnostic tool using a disposable MEMS-based biochip. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 10.1109/TBME.2016.2535364 (2016). [Abstract]

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