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Spotting Cancer Cells in Blood With a 27-Picosecond Camera

August 13, 2012

A simple blood test that offers early detection of cancer in the human body has long eluded medical researchers, but a team at UCLA is getting closer.

By blending an ultra-fast camera and a powerful optical microscope with software that can process the data they produce at extremely high speeds, the team hopes it can spot circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that have broken away from cancerous tumors in blood samples, potentially making early cancer detection as simple as taking a blood draw.
When a cancerous tumor forms in the body, cells break away and get loose in the bloodstream. These are the aforementioned CTCs and they are a very real threat, helping cancer to metastasize throughout the body. But they also serve as a telltale sign of the presence of cancer in the first place--evidence right there in a person’s blood that tells doctors that cancer is hiding somewhere in the body.

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The Busy Human Bloodstream National Cancer Institute

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