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Cypriot researchers develop capsule for early detection of intestinal cancer 

The University of Cyprus campus

Researchers at the University of Cyprus have given hope for early-stage detection of cancers in the small intestine.

The team from the Holistic Electronics Research Laboratory of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have developed a capsule aimed towards a low-cost, small intestine cancer screening, under the guidance of Dr Julius Georgiou.

A press release from the University of Cyprus notes that although cancers of the small intestine are less frequent, since they account for only 2% of gasterointestinal malignancies, the survival rate of patients beyond five years is very low, ranging between 20-30%. The reason behind this low survival rate, is that the small intestine is largely inaccessible as opposed to the colon, and thus by the time symptoms appear, the cancer has reached advanced stages and has most likely metastasized to other organs.

The pill-sized electronic capsule, is designed to detect microcancers in the small intestine, thus enabling early detection and removal of cancerous cells. The capsule records fluorescence levels as it traverses the small intestine and stores the data onboard until it is expelled from the body, after which the data can be wirelessly downloaded for inspection by the physician.

It is noted that the key advantage of infrared based markers is that the emitted wavelengths can be detected by the capsule even if they are located a few millimetres below the epithelium, where cancers start. Furthermore, a major advantage of collecting fluorescence levels, as opposed to images, is that the examination of the data is much simpler and less time consuming. The prototype has demonstrated a very high sensitivity to ICG in the nanomolar and micromolar range, similar to that required to detect early stage cancers.

The cancer-screening capsule was developed under the supervision of Dr Georgiou who heads the Holistic Electronics Research Laboratory at the University of Cyprus, the only laboratory in Cyprus with the know-how and infrastructure to design and test mixed-signal integrated circuits. The prototype was developed mainly by Dr Panayiota Demosthenous, as part of her PhD thesis. Details of the invention have been published in the prestigious «IEEE Transactions in Biomedical Circuits and Systems” of the Engineering in Biology and Medicine Society and Circuits and Systems Society. (CNA)

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