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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Microchip Detects Tumor Cells in Blood

Device, Called the CTC-Chip, May Help the Search for Targeted Treatments

Technological Hurdles Remain

The search for targeted therapies that tailor treatment to an individual patient's tumor offers the promise of revolutionizing the treatment of cancer.

And technologies like the CTC-chip should play a big role in this search, American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis W. Brawley, MD, tells WebMD.

When they are ready for clinical use, such technologies hold the promise of distinguishing between cancers that need to be treated and those that do not, Brawley says.

"A major problem in oncology is that our definition of cancer was established in the 1840s," he says. "We need a 21st century definition of cancer that looks at the genetics of a tumor to determine its potential to spread and cause death."

Several major hurdles have to be cleared before it becomes clear if the CTC-chip will have a role in the everyday treatment of cancer or even in the search for new treatments, Haber says.

It now takes between eight and 12 hours to analyze a single sample -- a process that involves flowing blood through a silicon wafer the size of a business card and then imaging 80,000 microscopic posts coated with an antibody to a protein expressed on most solid tumors.

Haber predicts that the time it takes to analyze samples can be shortened "within a year or two."

"This is breakthrough technology, but we are still at the very early stages of developing it," he says.

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