According to a new study conducted by the University of Southern California, a new metal detection technique can be successfully utilised for studying cancer cells with the aim of improving the precision of treatment.
By imaging metal -tagged antibodies on biopsies from a patient with metastatic prostate cancer, Bridge Institute researchers at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience have created highly detailed, digital facsimiles of cancer cells that can travel through the body.
The metal tags enable scientists to identify and characterise the cancer cells in a blood sample after it is placed on a slide. Creating such highly detailed copies of tumours may help researchers develop more precise treatment plans for individual patients.
“That is exactly what is happening when the TSA swipes your hands,” said Peter Kuhn, a Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences at the Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center. “They are looking for metals, which are really easy to identify.”
“We are trying to understand how cancer actually moves from the initial location to other places in the body and can settle there,” Kuhn said.
The study established the proof of concept for the metal-detection technique, which allows scientists to see circulating and disseminated tumor cells at a molecular level in a way not possible before.
The study examined whether scientists could achieve a better blueprint for the spread of the tumor, which is the most difficult phase of cancer. Creating such highly detailed copies of tumors may help researchers develop more precise treatment plans for individual patients.
The new approach of using metal-tagged antibodies and a laser ablation system, coupled with a mass spectrometer, gives scientists the ability to track 35 different metal labels simultaneously. As a result, it provides 35 distinct views of the cancer cell’s biology.
Such discoveries have already led to better personalized care for patients, which tailor the treatment to the individuals as much as to their specific form of cancer. The study was published in the journal of Convergent Science Physical Oncology.