Making cancer diagnostics as cheap and easy as a pregnancy test

July 25, 2014

A simple urine test that makes cancer detection as easy and affordable as a pregnancy test has been developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge). Earlier detection of the disease would improve outcomes and even save lives.

Much like taking a pregnancy test, the user urinates on a specially treated paper strip that reveals test results within minutes. The test can also be used for the detection of noncommunicable diseases.

Developed by MIT professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Sangeeta Bhatia, the technology relies on nanoparticles that interact with tumor proteins called proteases. Each protease can trigger the release of hundreds of biomarkers that are then easily detectable in urine.

The detection technology initially called for a highly specialized analytical instrument to produce the results. “For the developing world, we thought it would be exciting to adapt [the diagnostic] to a paper test that could be performed on unprocessed samples in a rural setting, without the need for any specialized equipment," explains Bhatia in a press release on the MIT website. "The simple readout could even be transmitted to a remote caregiver by a picture on a mobile phone.”

Bhatia also considers the technology to be a cheaper alternative to imaging in developed countries such as the United States. Point-of-care, image-free cancer detection in a pharmacy clinic or in your home could be transformative, says Bhatia.

Click on the arrow below the image to find out how a smartphone can diagnose glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other retinal and optic nerve diseases.

Cancer diagnostic


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