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Can a gold-plated micro-chip detect the growth of cancer?


London, ON – A multi-disciplinary team of researchers led by scientists in London and Toronto is developing a simple tool that could one day make it easier to choose the best available cancer treatments for individual patients and improve their chances for survival.

Dr David Litchfield, professor, Department of Biochemistry, Western University, and a team that includes leaders in biological and physical sciences, as well as clinicians in the Division of Hematology at London Health Sciences Centre, are developing a specialized tool — a small gold-plated chip layered with sensors — that will be able to detect the activity of cell molecules called protein kinases that are often involved in cancer growth.

With a new $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, Dr Litchfield and his team are aiming to further develop this highly innovative technology so that numerous protein kinases can be monitored at the same time. The team, co-led by University of Toronto (Scarborough) chemistry professor Dr Bernie Kraatz, will also test the tool in cell lines and blood samples from leukemia patients. This information will help the team determine which protein kinases are involved in a patient’s cancer growth.

If successful, doctors will be able to use the tool to learn more about a patient’s tumour, so they can select the best available treatment for the patient based on the tumour’s characteristics.

This is one of 37 grants representing $7.2 million in funding across the country that were announced last week by the Canadian Cancer Society. A full list of the winning projects is available here.