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'Fish on a chip' technology may speed cancer diagnosis


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'Fish on a chip' technology may speed cancer diagnosis

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 | 5:25 PM MT

CBC News

A faster, cheaper cancer diagnosis technology called a "fish on a chip" has been developed in Alberta.

The diagnostic chip miniaturizes and automates testing for chromosome mutations from many types of cancer, shortening the wait for diagnosis.

The FISH technology, short for fluorescent in situ hybridization, attaches coloured dyes to detect mutations such as breaks and reattachments in chromosomes.

The test maps the DNA in a blood or bone marrow sample to tell doctors what type of cancer they're dealing with, and provides information on how to treat it.

Patients don't have to suffer therapies that won't do them any good, and they don't have to endure the side-effects, said Linda Pilarski, an oncology professor at the University of Alberta who holds a Canada Research Chair in biomedical nanotechnology.

The new test could cost as little as $10, one-tenth the cost of conventional diagnostic tests, the researchers said.

While conventional tests take several days and highly skilled technologists, the fish on a chip version can be done in less than a day, including in rural areas where people would not have to travel to major centres to access it, Pilarski said.

Researchers have tested the technology on hundreds of cancer patients, including cancer survivor Willie Gruber. When Gruber's doctor suspected cancer during a physical exam, it took two weeks before he got the results.

"When you go in and you are told you may have cancer, you then have this several weeks of waiting," Gruber recalled of the stressful time. "It turns your life upside down, it puts things on hold."

The test needs to undergo more trials and gain approval from Health Canada before it could be rolled out in five years at the earliest.

For now, it is used as part of research and clinical trials, Pilarski said.

The research will be published this month in the journal Nanobiotechnology, and will be presented at the 11th International Myeloma Workshop, a medical conference being held in Greece at the end of June.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/ ... -chip.html

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