Hacking The Body: This Implant Can Trap Cancer Cells

Credit: Joseph Xu

Why is cancer so deadly? It spreads and consumes in a process called metastasis. If it stayed put we'd have an easier fight on our hands. Researchers hope this sponge-like implant could offer an intriguing solution, sucking up circulating cancer cells and warning you of their presence early on.

9 out of 10 cancer deaths are caused by spreading to other organs

Time is often cited as 'our most precious resource'. Beating cancer is no exception to this; if we caught every cancer early success rates would be vastly improved. Curing cancer therefore requires more than simply destroying these cells. It also means improving diagnosis. 

We need intel, not just weaponry

These 5mm sponges are designed to act as a early warning system, attracting any circulating cancer cells through immune activity. The tiny sponges are made of a safe biomaterial, but the body registers them as foreign and immune cells build up nearby. Collections of immune cells have been shown to attract wandering cancer cells, and these implants hijack this mechanism.

Circulating cancer cells are extremely difficult to detect, but scientists showed these sponges not only signal their presence, but also reduce their spread. 

"We need to see if metastatic cells will show up in the implant in humans like they did in the mice, and also if it's a safe procedure and that we can use the same imaging to detect cancer cells"

Inventions like this show how important engineering and advances in bio-materials can be, providing innovative new ways of dealing with disease. 

Read more at BBC News