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Daniel Heller runs a lab developing nanomaterials for the treatment and detection of cancer and other diseases.

He explains this technology by describing

  • The research tools used to try and improve biological systems testing in general,
  • Specific nanotechnology designed to detect the signs of cancer, especially ovarian, much earlier than current tests, and
  • The movement towards fitness tracker paradigms for noninvasive medical detectors.

Daniel A. Heller, PhD, runs the Daniel Heller Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. They’re making sensors to detect signs of cancer at the earlies stages, like ovarian cancer, which is often detected at later stages when it is hardest to treat.

Currently, they’re creating sensors that would be implanted in patients at higher risk to detect ovarian cancer. He explains that the sensors identify biomarkers, which appear at higher levels in certain areas of the body like fallopian tubes, for example, before they appear in the blood where they are normally detected but too late for effective treatment.

He explains that nanotechnologists are working alongside the popularity of fitness trackers like the Apple watches, hoping to merge that trend with medical advancement. These trackers shoot light to measure bodily functions like your pulse. Heller and his colleagues thought that they could get at these key biomarkers through something similar, a wearable device, which can use light to compare and measure indicators but noninvasively. A nanotube in the body can send infrared signals to this wearable device. 

He describes how these can offer an accumulative measure—so even if the cancer is at a very early stage, and a single time point measure wouldn’t find significant biomarker levels, if clinicians do accumulative measures, they should be able to catch it. Then, they can tell if they are increasing or measure their rate of change, also called the biomarker velocity.

For more, find him on twitter through @HellerLab and see the lab web site at https://www.mskcc.org/research/ski/labs/daniel-heller

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