Tiny nanodevice monitors cancer treatment

A tiny nanoscale device can accurately measure a patient’s blood for methotrexate – a commonly used but potentially toxic cancer drug – in under 60 seconds, according to biomedical instrument designer Jean-François Masson, and Joelle Pelletier, a DHFR enzyme specialist, both at the Chemistry Department, University of Montreal.

Source: University of Montreal
Source: University of Montreal

Crucially, the device’s optical system can rapidly gauge the optimal dose of methotrexate a patient needs, while minimising the drug’s adverse effects.
Methotrexate can block the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), which is active in the synthesis of DNA precursors and thus promotes cancer cell proliferation – but it is highly toxic, so closely monitoring the drug’s concentration in a patient’s serum is vital.
Currently, a device using fluorescent bioassays to measure light polarisation produced by a drug sample is used – but this is a cumbersome, expensive platform that only experienced personnel can manipulate.

Six years ago, Pelletier and Masson investigated how to simplify the procedure. In the course of their research they developed and manufactured the miniaturised device that works by surface plasmon resonance. Put simply, it measures serum methotrexate concentration through gold nanoparticles on the surface of a receptacle. In ‘competing’ with methotrexate to block the enzyme, the gold nanoparticles change the colour of light detected by the instrument and that colour reflects the exact concentration of the drug in the blood sample.

In tests, measurements from nanoparticles device proved as accurate, Masson pointed out, yet took under 60 seconds to produce, compared to 30 minutes for current devices used, and they were obtained easily by lab technicians inexperienced in surface plasmon resonance.

The new device is small and needs little manipulation of samples, so could soon be used at the bedside and/or in a GP surgery.


More on the subject:
Read all latest stories

Related articles


Tissue analysis

Infrared spectroscopy as a diagnostic tool

New techniques of infrared-based technology are showing strong potential for cost-effective tissue analysis. Peter Gardner, Professor of Analytical and Biomedical Spectroscopy at the University of…


Cytosponge research

‘Pill on a string’ test could transform oesophageal cancer diagnosis

A ‘pill on a string’ test can identify ten times more people with Barrett’s oesophagus than the usual GP route, a new study shows. The test, which can be carried out by a nurse in a GP surgery,…



How cancer spreads in blood

A new study sheds light on proteins in particles called extracellular vesicles, which are released by tumor cells into the bloodstream and promote the spread of cancer. The findings suggest how a…

Related products

Atlas Genetics - Atlas Genetics io system

Infectious diseases testing

Atlas Genetics - Atlas Genetics io system

Atlas Genetics Ltd
DiaSys Diagnostic Systems - InnovaStar

Clinical chemistry

DiaSys Diagnostic Systems - InnovaStar

DiaSys Diagnostic Systems GmbH
Image Information Systems – iQ-4VIEW

Mobile RIS/PACS Viewer

Image Information Systems – iQ-4VIEW

IMAGE Information Systems Europe GmbH