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Cancer can be hard to find, which is why researchers are constantly working on developing new tools to make that job a little easier, says The Wall Street Journal's Shirley Wang. Some cancer researchers are working on nanoparticle technology and "sensitive magnetic fields" to locate breast cancer cells, Wang says. Others are trying to improve detection of melanoma without the need for biopsies. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a team of researchers headed up by Edward Flynn works with nanoparticles to detect breast cancer by attaching nanoparticles of iron oxide to certain antibodies which are then injected into a patient, Wang says. If a tumor is present, the antibodies bind to the HER-2 receptor of breast cancer cells and the patient is then surrounded by a superconducting quantum interference device that aligns the nanoparticles. "When the magnetic field is broken, the nanoparticles emit an electromagnetic signal as they relax back into their original state. By measuring the strength of the signal, doctors can tell how many metal particles, and therefore how many cancer cells, are present, and where in the breast they are located," she adds. For melanoma, researchers at UCSD have developed a "Scotch-tape-like adhesive to remove dead cells from the skin for a sample of the genes that are active in skin cells in that region, Wang says. The genes are then compared to a panel of 17 genes known to be associated with melanoma, giving clinicians an option for diagnosis other than a painful biopsy.

The Scan

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