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Penn State Research Team Aims to Prevent the Spread of Cancer

A new method being developed by Penn State researchers to monitor the spread of tumor cells could change the way doctors treat cancer patients.

According to Siyang Zheng, an assistant professor of bioengineering, cells that break off primary tumors account for 90 percent of cancer deaths. As these circulating tumor cells (CTCs) float through the bloodstream, they latch on to other parts of the body, developing new tumors.

“Even if you get rid of the primary tumor, you may have other tumors,” Zheng said. “The patient might have clusters of tumor cells that break off that can reach other places in the body in a process called ‘metastasis.'”

The research team at Penn State has created a square centimeter chip called a flexible micro spring array (FMSA) that filters out the number of CTCs in a given blood sample. CTCs are trapped by the the FMSA because they are larger than normal blood cells, which allows doctors to assess the data and adjust the methods of treatment accordingly.

This technology is still in the early stages of development, largely due to the scale that the team works on.

“If we can perfect this method, the doctor can draw a sample and see how the therapy is working and, if necessary, change the therapy,” Zheng said.

Faculty like Zheng are what make Penn State the distinguished research university it has become today. Zheng won a National Institutes of Health Award last year for his innovation in the field of biomedical behavioral research. He was also awarded a $720,000 Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society.

Zheng still looks to expand his team in an effort to find the most technologically efficient way to develop this advancement in modern medicine.

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About the Author

Leo Dillinger

Penn State Junior, Print Journalism Major, Minors in English and Sociology, Writer of Arts, Entertainment, News, Tomfoolery and Opinion.

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