Canadian Researchers Develop Handheld Device to Screen for Cancer

This can give doctors up-to-date results without waiting for a lab.


The new device works like a glucometer. (Sergey Novikov /

Today you can check your sugar levels with a handheld glucometer. Wouldn’t it be great if you could monitor your blood for cancer signatures the same way? Now a new prototype was developed that can do just that.

 Researchers at McMaster and Brock universities in Ontario, Canada have developed a method that would allow for home-based screenings according to a McMaster press release. This could pave the way for better access to diagnostic screenings in medical clinics and at home because no lab work would be needed.

The handheld device works just like a glucometer but includes one extra step. Users mix a drop of blood into a vial of special reactive liquid which is then placed on a test strip and inserted into the device which measures an antigen to determine which cancer is present. Then the up-to-date results can be given to doctors to help with the patient’s treatment.

“This is another step toward truly personalized medicine,” Leyla Soleymani, a biomedical engineer at McMaster University, the Canada Research Chair in Miniaturized Biomedical Devices and one of the researchers said in the press release. “We’re getting away from centralized, lab-based equipment for this kind of testing.

“This would make monitoring much more accessible and cut down on the number of times patients need to leave home to provide blood samples.”

The prototype was designed to monitor the antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer but it can be modified to test for other types of cancer, according to The Guardian, and other diseases too.

The research was recently published in the journal Angewandte Chemie but the device needs more testing before it can be approved for commercial manufacture.

Once the handheld device is commercially available, it could be a major shift in the way cancer is diagnosed and treated, Feng Li, an associate professor of chemistry who leads a bioanalytical chemistry lab at Brock University said in the press release.

“Since this device is a lot more accessible and user-friendly than conventional technologies, patients will be more willing to use it, which can improve clinical outcomes and save lives,” said Li

While screening blood for cancer is not new, a diagnostic test that can detect more than 20 types of cancer developed by the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts is currently in trials. Since early detection is the key to treating cancer, any advancements in the way we screen for and treat cancer will save many lives.

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