Scientists have been trying to understand the mechanisms that stimulate cells to become cancerous for decades. Incidents of the disease have increased dramatically over the past few years, mostly due to environmental and lifestyle factors; this recent surge has lead to an intensive search for new treatments.
Technology is instrumental to scientists for discovering news ways of solving old problems, so it comes as no surprise that it also has a critical part in finding a cure. The following are 9 innovative projects that merge technology with life sciences to beat cancer.
Google is developing a wristband that can detect and measure analytes (substances or chemicals) in a person’s blood. The device would then transmit energy—targeting the harmful substance—through the patient’s blood vessels. The type of energy (infrared, acoustic pulse, magnetic field) used depends upon the target, as it transforms the chemical composition of the target analyte.
Berg is a biopharma startup using AI to drive “precision medicine”—that is, medicine specific to a particular kind of cancer, administered after the full biological make-up of the effected cell(s) are analyzed. This analysis for deciding upon a particular course of cancer treatment can be performed in days or weeks—as opposed to decades.
Genes in Space is a first-person shooter for mobile devices that doubles as a crowdsourcing tool for cancer research: behind the scenes, the app sifts through a huge amount of data regarding cancer research to uncover cancer’s genetic secrets. This information is then translated into valuable materials that players collect in the game.
An initiative of Intel and Knight Cancer Institute, Collaborative Cancer Cloud analyzes the genomic data of cancer patients from all over the world. Its goal is to personalize and find treatments that have worked for similar cancers. Using this approach, patients are treated on the basis of their specific genome.
Nanotechnology-based targeted drug therapy can be an effective way of treating cancer. For example, gold nanoparticles armed with anti-cancer drugs are administered to a cancer patient—because cancer cells devour everything they come across, they also pick up these nanoparticles. The slow release of the drug then results in death of the cancer cell.
Using simulation and modeling technologies, real-life representations are created for each person’s cancer. These models are then used to analyze the response of cancer towards various drugs. The best drug/course of treatment is determined based on the working of the genes involved in drug delivery and metabolism.
Developed by Australian scientists, Kilovoltage Intrafraction Monitoring (KIM) software is capable of determining the exact location of tumors in real-time. Radiation can then be focused directly on the target without affecting healthy cells. It can even detect a tiny movement by the tumor to adjust radiation paths accordingly.
IBM’s Watson can now be enlisted in the fight against cancer. Its Knowledge Integration Toolkit (KNiT) analyzes worldwide scientific research, interprets research data, and searches for missed connections between millions of available research papers. In terms of cancer research, graphs for the analysis of missed connections amongst proteins and molecular mechanics can be used in identifying protein targets.
Sensor-based-technologies can make cancer treatments safer and more effective. For example, specialized sensors for controlling radiation exposure can be placed on tumorous organs/tissue during radiotherapy. This real-time monitoring ensures that healthy tissue is safe from high levels of radiation.
In short, technology is paving the way for a myriad of treatments that are both effective and affordable. Be sure to keep an eye on these 9 projects that merge biology and hi-tech—their developments may one day lead to a cure for cancer.