Cancer victims have it rough. Not only is the disease incurable, but once you have it you get poked, prodded and tanked full of radioactive substances just to keep track of the tumor. That may not always be the case, however, now that Dr. Michael Cima at MIT has developed an implant capable of continuously monitoring a tumor.
Cima, a professor of materials science and engineering, created the cylinder-shaped, 0.2-inch-long implant, and stuffed it full of cancer-detecting nanoparticles. When cancer-related substances pass through the implant's porous membrane, they bind with the magnetic nanoparticles, which clump together in the implant. The result shows up loud and clear on an MRI scan.
The implant works on lab mice, and Cima believes it could be available for humans in the next few years. It's intended to be a tumor monitor for already diagnosed patients, but perhaps a future version could be implanted into healthy people who are at high risk of contracting cancer (for either genetic or environmental reasons) and might assist in catching the disease early. We can hope.