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Micrograph of cancer cells
National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia CC-BY
Cancer cells are larger than healthy blood cells.

A new diagnosis tool could be used to cleanse the blood of cancer

Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Investigative reporter

A newly developed cancer diagnosis tool could potentially be used to cleanse the blood free from cancerous cells, according to the doctor behind the project.

Dr Majid Warkiani, together with his team from the University of New South Wales in Australia, developed a “dialysis for cancer” that is expected to dramatically cut the cost of diagnosis.

Currently, cancers are identified by scans followed by biopsies, which can be an expensive and laborious process. But solid cancer tumors shed cancerous cells that circulate through the bloodstream and spread the disease.

Warkiani’s diagnosis tool works by separating out and identifying cancer cells from billions of healthy blood cells. It can be used both for diagnosing cancer and monitoring how a patient is responding to treatment, according to the University of New South Wales. The system is currently going through clinical trials in the US, UK and Australia, reports the university.

But Warkiani has even more ambitious goals for his device. He said in a statement:

If the filtering system could be scaled up, a cancer patient’s entire blood supply could potentially be similarly filtered, removing the dangerous cells and cycling the rest of the patient’s blood back into their system. It would be similar to dialysis treatment for kidney patients. It would be a revolution in cancer treatment. You would keep filtering out the dangerous cells, prolonging the life of the patient.

He added that the treatment could “drastically” decrease the cancer mortality rate, but said it wouldn’t be in use any time soon. “There is still a long way to go – including securing money and support in Australia – before this is possible,” said Warkiani.

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