Researchers are developing an electronic sensor chip that could be implanted in patients to monitor tumours.
The implanted chip has been designed by a team of technicians from the Technical University, Munich, to determine the oxygen content in tissue fluid, then send data wirelessly to physicians. Surgery is usually the first treatment step to combat cancer. However, some forms of the disease, such as brain tumours, can be difficult to operate on as there is a risk of damaging surrounding tissue. The researchers say the new sensor chip could be implanted close to a tumour, measure the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the tissue and send the information by radio to a receiver worn by the patient. Once a physician receives the data, treatments can then be diagnosed. As the tumour can be monitored continuously, the patient will need fewer checkups. Project manager of IntelliTuM - Intelligent implants to the tumour monitoring, Sven Becker, says that the sensor works autonomously for long periods of time and is designed to minimise the risk of contamination. "We have designed the sensor chip so that it will calibrate itself to break into a defined measuring dissolved oxygen concentration," he said. "We have also put the sensor chip together with evaluation electronics, batteries and a radio unit in a housing made of biocompatible plastic." While the device is smaller than a thumbnail, its size must be reduced further before it could be implanted during minimally invasive surgery. So far, it has been tested in labs, but there are plans to trial the sensor chips in the treatment of animals. Beyond this, the researchers hope that the chip could help ease the treatment of cancer and provide more accurate diagnoses.