Coming soon, a smart phone App to detect cancer in 60 minutes
Coming soon, a smart phone App to detect cancer in 60 minutes REUTERS

A mobile phone can spot cancer and soon there may be an application to detect it enabling physicians to detect within 60 minutes if a suspicious lump in a patient is cancerous or benign, Science Translational Medicine Journal said in a report on Friday.

Instead of immediately cutting out masses that they suspect are tumors, oncologists often use a thick needle to remove a few cells from a lump for an analysis at a pathology lab. But the tests used there, such as examining the shape of cells and staining for various proteins, are sometimes inconclusive. The lab tests also take several days.

Physician-scientist Ralph Weissleder's team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston developed a miniature version of a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine-the workhorse tool that allows researchers to identify chemical compounds by the way their nuclei react in magnetic fields, the report said.

The U.S. researchers said the gadget could 'transform cancer care' by also making it easier for doctors to track how well drugs are fighting the disease in a patient's body.

In initial tests, it was 88 per cent accurate in distinguishing cancerous stomach tumors from benign growths. Refining the technique boosted accuracy to 100 per cent, the journal Science Translational Medicine said.

The researchers used the standard needle procedure to collect suspicious cells from patients' abdomens. They then labeled the cells with various magnetic nano particles designed to attach to known cancer-associated proteins and injected the cells into their miniature NMR machine. The device, whose data can be read with a smart phone application instead of a computer, detected levels of nine protein markers for cancer cells, the report added.

The smartphone app is an easy-to-use interface that both controls the desk phone-sized apparatus as well as receives the data, Cesar Castro co-author of the study and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, which holds the patent on the technology, told Daily Mail.

We must emphasize that this is a quantitative readout with no room for subjectivity or manipulation by whoever is processing and this is important - whether the results are generated in Boston, London, or Lima the data remains the data. It also allows for apples to apples comparisons, Daily Mail added.