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Cheap At-Home Cancer Tests Being Developed

Cheap At-Home Cancer Tests Being Developed
(Copyright AP)

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 05:04 PM

Cheap At-Home Cancer Tests Being Developed

In a few years, testing yourself for cancer and other diseases may be as simple as testing your blood sugar levels at home. Researchers at Ohio State University are developing paper strips that could be designed to test for many diseases, including cancer and malaria at a cost of only 50 cents per strip.
Patients would put a drop of blood on paper strips and mail them to a laboratory where they would be diagnosed. A patient would have to visit a doctor only if the test was positive.
Researchers found the results were accurate on blood samples up to a month after the sample was taken, showing they could be an answer to accurate medical diagnoses for people living in remote areas.
Researcher Abraham Badu-Tawiah say that the test can be tailored to detect any disease for which the human body produces antibodies, including ovarian cancer and cancer of the large intestine.
He says the new technology could bring disease diagnosis to people who don't have regular access to a doctor or can't afford regular in-person visits.
"We want to empower people," Badu-Tawiah said. "If you care at all about your health and you have reason to worry about a condition, then you don't want to wait until you get sick to go to the hospital. You could test yourself as often as you want.
"To get tested, all a person would have to do is put a drop of blood on the paper strip, fold it in half, put it in an envelope and mail it," he said.
The technology works differently than other paper-based medical diagnostics like home pregnancy tests, which are coated with enzymes or gold nanoparticles to make the paper change color. Instead, the paper contains small synthetic chemical probes that carry a positive charge. It's these "ionic" probes that allow ultra-sensitive detection by a handheld mass spectrometer.
"Enzymes are picky. They have to be kept at just the right temperature and they can't be stored dry or exposed to light," Badu-Tawiah said. "But the ionic probes are hardy. They are not affected by light, temperature, humidity — even the heat in Africa can't do anything to them. So you can mail one of these strips to a hospital and know that it will be readable when it gets there."
Badu-Tawiah and his research team proved that they could detect protein biomarkers from the most common malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is most prevalent in Africa, as well as the protein biomarker for ovarian cancer, known as cancer antigen 125, and the carcinoembryonic antigen, which is a marker for cancer of the large intestine, among other cancers.
In addition to being useful for diagnosis in remote areas of the world, Badu-Tawiah said the tests would be ideal for people who have a family history of cancer or have successfully undergone cancer treatment. Instead of waiting to visit a doctor every six months to confirm that they are still in remission, they could test themselves from home more frequently.
The prototype test strips cost about 50 cents each to produce, but the costs would likely go down with mass production, according to Badu-Tawiah. The greatest cost would be the mass spectrometers medical facilities would need to be able to read the results. Although portable instruments can cost $100,000, less expensive handheld versions are under development.
Badu-Tawiah hopes to be able to test the strips in a clinical setting within three years. In the meantime, he and his colleagues are working to make the tests more sensitive, so that they can eventually be used non-invasively, with saliva or urine as the test material instead of blood.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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In a few years, testing yourself for cancer and other diseases may be as simple as testing your blood sugar levels at home. Researchers at Ohio State University are developing paper strips that could be designed to test for many...
cheap, at-home, cancer, tests, developed, 50 cents
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2016-04-29
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 05:04 PM
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