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Jan 06, 2011

Groundbreaking Microchip Technology in Cancer Treatment Developed by Mehmet Toner and His Team

Detecting stray cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream stands out as one of the biggest challenges currently facing cancer treatment.  Prof. Mehmet Toner, board of trustees member at Özyeğin University and director of the BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems (BioMEMS) Resource Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and his team have developed the most sensitive test that can spot circulating cancer cells.  

Cancer Diagnosis with Microchip

The test developed by Toner and his team is designed to capture even a single cancer cell among a billion of health ones using just a microchip. Contrary to the needle biopsies entailing painful tissue sampling used widely in cancer diagnosis, this test can be considered a liquid biopsy. The microchip is covered in 78,000 tiny posts coated with antibodies that bind to tumor cells. This breakthrough test allows for both capturing and counting the cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream. 

The challenging goal of sorting extremely rare circulating tumor cells from blood requires continuous technological, biological and clinical innovation to fully explore the utility of these precious cells in clinical oncology,” said Mehmet Toner.  “We have developed and continue to develop a broad range of technologies that are evolving what we know about cancer and cancer care.”

Needle biopsies often fall short of providing enough sample to specify what genes or pathways control a tumor's growth.  Or the sample may no longer be of use by the time a specialist decides what treatment to pursue on the patient.  In fact, some patients do not survive long enough to try one or two treatments.   The only blood test currently available in the market gives just a cell count, rather than capturing cells that doctors can work on to choose the best treatment option.   The novel microchip-enabled blood test prevents such delays that shorten patients’ life spans.

Available at Your Doctor’s Office Within 10 Years

Through the collaboration of the Massachusetts General Hospital, a research and teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School,  with one of the leading pharmaceutical companies, this novel technology will be widespread within a few years. 

About Circulating Cancer Cells

Circulating tumor cells are cancer cells that have detached from the tumor and are found at extremely low levels in the bloodstream.  The value of capturing and counting CTCs is evolving as more research data is gathered about the utility of these markers in monitoring disease progression and potentially guiding personalized cancer therapy.

About Prof. Dr. Mehmet Toner

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Toner is the Board of Trustees member at Özyeğin University, director of the BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems (BioMEMS) Resource Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital and director of  the Biomedical Engineering Research and Education Program for physicians at Harvard Teaching Hospitals.

He obtained an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Istanbul Technical University and a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1989, he received his PhD in Medical Engineering at Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Department. He is presently a professor of surgery at Harvard University's Faculty of Medicine and at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard-MIT.

In addition, he takes part in the management of various biotechnology firms that he has founded.