Now, smartphones diagnose cancer

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By Sola Ogundipe

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Systems Biology have developed a smartphone-enabled Diagnostic Magnetic Resonance, DMR, device described as the world’s smallest cancer diagnostic system which has an accuracy rate of 96 percent compared to 84 percent for biopsy.

Presenting the device last week at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., Dr. Roderick Pettigrew Director of the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, said the handheld DMR device was evaluated in a clinical trial of 70 patients with suspected abdominal malignancy.

In a presentation entitled “State of the Science in Research on Mobile Health Technologies”

Pettigrew recalled that in a recent clinical study, the mobile-enabled diagnostic magnetic resonance had an accuracy that was more than 12 percentage points higher than the conventional “gold standard” of biopsy.

“We were driven to develop this device by two factors – the exquisite sensitivity of magnetic resonance techniques like MRI and the desire to detect cancer in very small cell samples,”  he stated.

Patients in the study underwent a biopsy in addition to a minimally invasive procedure known as fine needle aspiration, a mini biopsy that collects cells rather than tissue.

Specimens collected from biopsies were sent to a lab for standard diagnostic testing, while the aspirates were run through the DMR system in what Pettigrew described as a “chemistry lab on a chip.”

Not only did the DMR provide more accurate cancer diagnosis, but it arrived at its results quicker by enabling quantification of multiple protein markers within an hour instead of three days.

“This smartphone-enabled technology is superior technology (to standard diagnostic procedures) and is an example of the type of rigorous evaluation that we need to establish the real value for these mobile and wireless tools,” Pettigrew said.

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