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Medical Lab in a Chip
Often doctors can't detect a cancer until after it has spread, and that may be too late. But doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and researchers at MIT have developed a new business-card-size silicon chip that detects the cells that indicate cancer may be spreading, called circulating tumor cells (CTCs). The chip is covered with an antibody agent that attracts the tumor cells, so when a blood sample is pumped through, healthy cells and platelets skip on by while CTCs stick. According to Mehmet Toner, PhD, director of Mass General's BioMEMS Resource Center, 10,000 chips will be used in clinical trials next year at four major cancer hospitals. Ultimately, they could lead to fast, inexpensive cancer screening.