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AI and Biosensors Developed to Determine Whether Targeted Chemotherapy Works

Rutgers scientists have developed a device that can establish whether targeted chemotherapy drugs are having its desired effect on cancer patients.

This image shows six devices with biosensors to detect whether a cancer cell is alive when it passes through a tiny hole for fluids. The devices fit on a 3-inch wide piece of glass. (Photo credit: Zhongtian Lin)

The portable device, which uses biosensors and artificial intelligence (AI), is up to 95.9% accurate in counting live cancer cells when they pass through electrodes, according to a research in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering.

We built a portable platform that can predict whether patients will respond positively to targeted cancer therapy. Our technology combines artificial intelligence and sophisticated biosensors that handle tiny amounts of fluids to see if cancer cells are sensitive or resistant to chemotherapy drugs.

Mehdi Javanmard, Senior Author and Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, School of Engineering, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

The device offers speedy results and will enable more customized interventions for patients as well as improved management and detection of the disease. It can quickly examine cells without having to stain them, allowing for additional molecular analysis and prompt results. Existing devices depend on staining, restricting cell characterization.

“We envision using this new device as a point­of­care diagnostic tool for assessing patient response and personalization of therapeutics,” the research states.

Treatment of cancer patients mostly necessitates drugs that can destroy tumor cells, but chemotherapy destroys tumor cells as well as healthy cells, causing side effects such as gastrointestinal problems and hair loss.

Co-author Joseph R. Bertino, a resident researcher at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and his team earlier formulated a therapeutic approach that targets cancer cells, such as those in multiple myeloma, B-cell lymphoma, and epithelial carcinomas. It helps to bind a chemotherapy drug to an antibody such that only tumor cells are targeted, and reduces interaction with healthy cells.

Patients will respond quite well to this therapy if their tumor cells produce a protein known as matriptase. Numerous patients will benefit while the side effects from regular chemotherapy are reduced.

“Novel technologies like this can really have a positive impact on the standard-of-care and result in cost-savings for both healthcare providers and patients,” Bertino said.

The Rutgers team verified their new device using cancer cell samples treated with varying concentrations of a targeted anti­cancer drug. The device senses whether a cell is alive based on the change in its electrical properties as it passes via a minute fluidic hole. The second step is to conduct tests on tumor samples from patients. The scientists hope the device will ultimately be used to test cancer therapies on tumor samples of a patient prior to treatment.

The lead author was Karan Ahuja, who got a master’s degree at Rutgers. Co-authors include Gulam M. Rather, a postdoc at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and engineering doctoral students Zhongtian Lin, Jianye Sui, Pengfei Xie, and Tuan Le.



  1. Anant Singh Anant Singh India says:

    This is yet another success story in the field of chemotherapy. With personalized treatment also in the pipeline, this might well prove to be a very successful experiment. Also, this is another great application of biosensors whose market was valued at around 18 billion USD in 2018, as per a Grand View Research report. However, this development might potentially accelerate the growth of this sector.

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