A new method to detect tumor cells could help save the lives of cancer patients with a simple blood sample.

HOUSTON — Researchers from University of Houston worked hard to develop a new method for detecting tumor cells in the blood. The new method could help change and save the lives of cancer patients.

That’s what researchers at the University of Houston are hoping for, and they’re going to start clinical trials with it. MD Anderson soon.

Normally, to detect a tumor, you need to get imaging or a biopsy. But with the new method, the researchers said they could find rare tumor cells through a sample of your blood. It could be life changing for those battling cancer and even cancer survivors.

They say tumor cells are very rare to find.

“You need a very sensitive method to detect it,” said Dr Shaun Zhang with The Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston.

What they did was create a virus-like particle-based probe that searches for circulating tumor cells for their specific detection.

“We designed it to actively search for circulating tumor cells in the blood,” Zhang said.

Not only does it spot rare tumor cells, but more importantly, it can let them know if those cells are alive.

“Imagine there is only one tumor cell circulating among millions of blood cells. It’s like a needle in a haystack,” Zhang said.

The method could potentially be life-changing for cancer patients undergoing treatment, as doctors won’t have to wait until treatment is over to see if it’s working.

“We can tell the doctor within a few days… ‘OK, if it’s not effective, stop the treatment and the patient won’t suffer any side effects’ and they’ll move on to another treatment,” Zhang said.

The method could even change the lives of surviving cancer patients. With a simple blood sample, doctors can detect any recurring tumours.

“Our method … through annual checks once every six months, could collect blood, and we are looking for circulating live tumor cells,” Zhang said.

The researchers said they had been working on the method for two years. The University of Houston has also filed a patent application. The researchers hope to begin commercializing the new method.

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