Tiny implants signal new way to treat cancer

London: Cancer patients can be treated more effectively in future with tiny sensory implants that will monitor and treat tumours with great precision, a team of scientists says.

The devices, about the size of an eyelash, will be planted into a patient`s tumours and will allow doctors to conduct radiotherapy, and ultimately chemotherapy, where and when it is most needed, improving the patient`s chances of recovery.

A team led by the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University, will develop the miniature chips in a five-year project, which will be followed by clinical trials.

Eventually, the team hopes to develop chips that are capable of delivering doses of chemotherapy directly to a tumour.

The 5.2 million pound-project, Implantable Microsystems for Personalised Anti-Cancer Therapy (IMPACT), is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

"Experts will be working to target cancer, one of the biggest health concerns of today, in an entirely new way. Our aim is, in the long term, help to alleviate suffering and to improve the outlook for very many cancer patients," said Professor Alan Murray of the University of Edinburgh, who is leading the study.

The devices will be designed to measure vital factors about tumours, such as their levels of blood oxygen and key biological molecules, transmitting the information wireless to medical staff.

These readings would enable doctors to identify and target tumours that are found to be resistant to radiotherapy and drug treatment.

Sensors would also take measurements to indicate how effective the treatment is in killing cancer cells, enabling therapy to be personalised for each patient.