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Cancer Beware

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Researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a new carbon nanotube device that is capable of finding single cancer cells in patients, says 80beats' Patrick Morgan. The microfluidics device, published in the journal Small, could help doctors find cancer cells that have spread from the original tumor site. The researchers developed a similar device four years ago — it featured tens of thousands of microscopic silicon posts coated with tumor-sticking antibodies, and when cancer cells bumped into the posts, they would stick and be detected, Morgan says. The new device, the researchers say, is eight times better than the old one, with highly porous carbon nanotubes replacing the solid silicon tubes. "This allows the blood to actually flow through the tubes instead of just around them, increasing the likelihood of catching a cancer cell," Morgan says. The process to commercialize the technology and get it into labs and hospitals is going to take a while, he adds.

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