“Each year 35,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and the testing programme is a massive undertaking,” says Professor Quentin Pankhurst of the London Centre for Nanotechnology and the UCL Department of Physics & Astronomy. “Until now, pathologists had to stain tissue samples with brown dyes to help them determine whether they were normal or cancerous. In terms of streamlining the process, the main problem is that all of the results are open to interpretation and each test has to be individually checked by a specialist.
“At UCL we’ve been working in the relatively new area of biomagnetics to develop a technique which provides more quantitative and reliable results, whilst also enabling pathologists to identify abnormal tissue sections much more quickly.
“Cancerous cells have a protein on their surface called HER2. We use a solution of HER2 antibodies, tagged with magnetic nanoparticles, to stain the tissue sample. Using the HistoMag we can detect the quantity of tagged antibodies which attach themselves to the HER2 protein, which in turn provides us with an accurate picture of the spread of cancerous cells.”
By automating the process through which cancerous cells are detected and quantified, HistoMag will not only ease the pressure on pathologists but also help to identify the 15-30% of patients who are likely to benefit from being treated with the drug Herceptin. At a cost of £30,000 per patient per annum it is essential to target Herceptin at those women who will respond positively to it.
The team, led by Professor Pankhurst, is one of only seven groups to receive a Brian Mercer Feasibility Award from the Royal Society this year. The £25,000 award will enable the team to re-engineer the HistoMag, increasing its sensitivity before it goes on to clinical trials. Their goal is to make the device generally available to pathologists in 2010.
The Royal Society Brian Mercer Awards were announced in a ceremony on the 28th February 2008. More information on this and other award schemes may be found on the Royal Society website.
David Weston | alfa
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A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
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For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
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Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
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