A pocket-size device that’s being developed right here in Toronto could soon help assess your risk for breast cancer and monitor how well breast cancer treatments are working. It works by measuring levels of the hormone estrogen, and researchers are dubbing it a ‘lab on a chip.’
The device electronically manipulates minute droplets of fluid on the surface of a microchip, integrating many different lab functions so fewer are needed. The technique takes raw, unprocessed tissue and delivers results rapidly. The researchers say it also requires much tinier samples than those needed by conventional methods, and estrogen can be measured in minutes.
For their report, the technique was tested on breast tissue from two postmenopausal breast cancer patients.
Estrogen concentrations are not routinely measured because doing so with conventional methods requires large samples.
The new method should make that much easier, the researchers said, and it might be practical for other conditions that require hormone level monitoring, such as infertility.
However, the lab on a chip is still in the early stages of development. It should be ready within five years.