The IK4-IKERLAN research centre is working to develop a laboratory device on a chip (lab-on-a-chip) that allows the concentration of cells responsible for spreading cancer throughout the body from a pancreatic tumour to be identified and measured.
90% of cancer-related deaths are due to metastasis. This is triggered when a tumour sheds the so-called circulating tumour cells (CTC), which are capable of invading new areas of the body. At present, detecting these cells is a long, expensive and complex process.
European authorities considered that this process can be reduced in cost, time and human resources with the microfluidics technologies that exist today, and have launched the CANDO project for this purpose. At the heart of this initiative, a lab-on-a-chip device will be developed, making it possible to automatically identify and measure the CTC concentration.
This system will be used to predict, classify and monitor the status of pancreatic cancer and, according to initial estimates, could produce a diagnosis in some 5 hours. Detecting its progress will help in evaluating the individual response to cancer therapies (i.e., whether the treatment is working or not), which will help to improve the quality of life of the patient.
Pancreatic cancer has a significant socio-economic impact because it is generally diagnosed at a very advanced stage and presents a 96% likelihood of death for about 68,000 Europeans who are diagnosed each year.