Swinburne University Researchers work to develop rapid cancer detection from a single drop of blood

Tuesday 14 December 2021
Postdoctoral research fellow Dr Saimon Moraes Silva has been working with industry partner, Universal Biosensors, to develop a handheld device that can detect a cancer biomarker from a finger prick of blood.
Swinburne University Researchers work to develop rapid cancer detection from a single drop of blood

In summary

  • Swinburne researchers have been working with Universal Biosensors to develop technology to detect cancer from a single drop of blood
  • The technology is a handheld electrochemical device, similar to the glucose meters used by diabetics
  • The device could potentially be used by GPs and oncologists to test cancer patients in remission
  • It is hoped the product can be brought to market within the next five years

 

Detecting and monitoring cancer through a simple finger prick blood test is the goal of a joint project between Swinburne and industry partner Universal Biosensors (UBI).

Using UBI’s electrochemical platform, Swinburne researchers have been working to develop a biosensor for the Tn antigen, a biomarker used for detecting, staging and monitoring cancer.

“The Tn antigen is a universal cancer biomarker because this molecule is present in more than 80 per cent of carcinomas,” says Swinburne’s Dr Saimon Moraes Silva. “You don’t see this molecule in healthy people.”

Dr Moraes Silva has been working on this project for three years under the supervision of Professor Simon Moulton from Swinburne’s School of Science, Computing and Engineering Technologies and Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute.

“The Tn technology has been developed through ARC Discovery grant funding and we are very excited to be working with UBI to translate this research into a commercial product that will have significant impact for cancer patients,” says Professor Moulton.

Swinburne has partnered with UBI to develop this technology, which is a handheld electrochemical device, similar to the glucose meters used by diabetics.

“We have developed a surface chemistry based on a molecule called lubricin,” says Dr Moraes Silva.

“Our device would only require a very tiny amount of blood – less than 20 microlitres. There is no need for sample preparation and you get an on the spot result.”

Ideally, he says, the devices could be used by GPs and oncologists to routinely test their cancer patients in remission.

Low limit of detection

Another advantage of this device is its extremely low limit of detection. “We can detect very low concentrations of the Tn antigen, in the range of 10-12 picomolar, which is a very low concentration,” Dr Moraes Silva says.

“We think there is the potential to also use it for early diagnosis because it could detect this Tn antigen even before a tumour starts to develop.”

Clinical testing on patients in Melbourne and in Europe are about to start and it is hoped the product can be brought to market within the next five years.

“To be able to identify and measure, then monitor the rate of a healthy human cell becoming a cancer cell from a handheld point-of-care biosensor device is an exciting prospect for UBI,” says CEO of UBI, John Sharman.

“It would be wonderful if this initiative could improve the lives of many of the 80 million carcinoma remission patients around the world.”

 

Breakthroughs in biomedical research have changed the way in which we identify and cure a variety of health issues. Biomedicine is at the forefront of technology — and it’s changing lives.

 

With a biomedical degree, you’ll learn to analyse and interpret complex data, then use it to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Explore biology, medicine, disease, chemistry and physiology (all touchpoints of biomedical science degrees) and apply your fundamental understanding of human anatomy, microbiology, biochemistry and physiology to real-world situations.

At Swinburne University, studying biomedical science isn’t just about theory. You’ll have access to research labs and the latest instruments in healthcare technology to give you the experience you’ll need to change lives. 

In fact, Swinburne is the only university in Australia with MRI and MEG labs on campus, so by the time you graduate, you’ll be confident in using the latest technology available.

 

Excerpt from The University of Swinburne Research News

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