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This week we profile a recent publication in Nanoscale from Dr. Karla Williams (pictured) at the University of British Columbia.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

Our recent publication in Nanoscale highlights our efforts in the development of a rapid, inexpensive, next-generation cancer detection platform. We show that we can detect small cell fragments, called extracellular vesicles, in blood plasma using a technology called nanoscale flow cytometry. We can identify these cell fragments using multiple markers and count the number present in the blood of healthy individuals and individuals with breast cancer. Overall, our work shows how this technology works and what we can detect in an individual’s blood. It’s the first stage of our research working towards developing a ‘liquid biopsy’ for cancer and provides the foundation for our future studies.

What are the next steps for this research?

We think that we can use this technology to develop non-invasive blood-based tests for cancer detection. Currently we are working to identify markers on cell fragments found in healthy female blood plasma and in the blood plasma of individuals with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Once we validate these markers we hope to develop a ‘fingerprint’ for healthy and breast cancer. We will test how this ‘fingerprint’ shows up on our nanoscale flow cytometer and determine if we can identify an individual with breast cancer using a simple blood sample.

This research was funded by:

This work is supported by the US Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, Breast Cancer Research Program, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grants Program.

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