Although it can be undetectable to the naked eye, cancer always leaves behind a unique chemical signature. Scientists have recently developed a new technology that can identify cancer cells based on the chemical changes that they cause in the body. Traditionally, doctors diagnose cancers by taking a tissue sample, staining it with dyes (left image), and then judging by eye, according to the abnormal cells present, how far the cancer has progressed. However, this method can be very subjective. The new ‘digistain’ method removes this human subjectivity and variability by using infrared to light up cancer cells (right image, in green). The method then calculates a score of how far the disease has spread based on specific biomarkers found in many cancers. This technology has the potential to transform the way we detect many different tumours, and could be an affordable, easy-to-use addition to doctors’ weaponry against the disease.
Written by Gaëlle Coullon
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