In summary

  • Swinburne researchers have been working with Universal Biosensors to develop technology to detect cancer from a single drop of blood
  • The technology is a handheld electrochemical device, similar to the glucose meters used by diabetics
  • The device could potentially be used by GPs and oncologists to test cancer patients in remission
  • It is hoped the product can be brought to market within the next five years

Detecting and monitoring cancer through a simple finger prick blood test is the goal of a joint project between Swinburne and industry partner Universal Biosensors (UBI).

Using UBI’s electrochemical platform, Swinburne researchers have been working to develop a biosensor for the Tn antigen, a biomarker used for detecting, staging and monitoring cancer.

“The Tn antigen is a universal cancer biomarker because this molecule is present in more than 80 per cent of carcinomas,” says Swinburne’s Dr Saimon Moraes Silva. “You don’t see this molecule in healthy people.”

Dr Moraes Silva has been working on this project for three years under the supervision of Professor Simon Moulton from Swinburne’s School of Science, Computing and Engineering Technologies and Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute.

“The Tn technology has been developed through ARC Discovery grant funding and we are very excited to be working with UBI to translate this research into a commercial product that will have significant impact for cancer patients,” says Professor Moulton.

Swinburne has partnered with UBI to develop this technology, which is a handheld electrochemical device, similar to the glucose meters used by diabetics.

“We have developed a surface chemistry based on a molecule called lubricin,” says Dr Moraes Silva.

“Our device would only require a very tiny amount of blood – less than 20 microlitres. There is no need for sample preparation and you get an on the spot result.”

Ideally, he says, the devices could be used by GPs and oncologists to routinely test their cancer patients in remission.

Low limit of detection

Another advantage of this device is its extremely low limit of detection. “We can detect very low concentrations of the Tn antigen, in the range of 10-12 picomolar, which is a very low concentration,” Dr Moraes Silva says.

“We think there is the potential to also use it for early diagnosis because it could detect this Tn antigen even before a tumour starts to develop.”

Clinical testing on patients in Melbourne and in Europe are about to start and it is hoped the product can be brought to market within the next five years.

“To be able to identify and measure, then monitor the rate of a healthy human cell becoming a cancer cell from a handheld point-of-care biosensor device is an exciting prospect for UBI,” says CEO of UBI, John Sharman.

“It would be wonderful if this initiative could improve the lives of many of the 80 million carcinoma remission patients around the world.”

Swinburne and Deakin Institute of Frontier Materials will also work with UBI to fast-track the development of other biosensors, using UBI’s electrochemical platform technology.

Universal Biosensors was a pioneer in blood glucose meters. Founded in 2001, UBI, specialises in the design and development of electrochemical cells (strips) used in conjunction with point of use devices that are used in various industries such as healthcare point of care, food and beverage and agriculture.

Related articles

  • Group of teenagers using mobile phones in hallway at high school.
    • Technology
    • Education

    TikTok has a startling amount of sexual content – and it’s way too easy for children to access

    Explicit content has long been a feature of the internet and social media, and young people’s exposure to it has been a persistent concern. This issue has taken centre stage again with the meteoric rise of TikTok. Despite efforts to moderate content, it seems TikTok’s primary focus remains on maximising user engagement and traffic, rather than creating a safe environment for users.

    Monday 20 November 2023
  • Barbed wire fence against blue sky with clouds
    • Health

    New report reveals shocking state of prisoner health. Here’s what needs to be done

    A new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on the health of people in Australian prisons makes for sobering reading. It reveals that compared to the general population, people in prison have higher rates of mental health conditions, chronic disease, communicable disease, and acquired brain injury. This is despite the fact the prison population is relatively young.

    Wednesday 15 November 2023
    • Technology
    • Science
    • Sustainability

    Swinburne and CSIRO launch state-of-the-art renewable hydrogen refuelling station

    Swinburne University of Technology and CSIRO have launched a state-of-the-art clean hydrogen refuelling station, purpose-built for enabling hydrogen research.

    Thursday 23 November 2023
  • a bowl of fried rice with chop sticks on a table
    • Science
    • Health

    What is ‘fried rice syndrome’? A microbiologist explains this type of food poisoning – and how to avoid it

    A condition dubbed “fried rice syndrome” has caused some panic online in recent days, after the case of a 20-year-old who died in 2008 was resurfaced on TikTok. “Fried rice syndrome” refers to food poisoning from a bacterium called Bacillus cereus, which becomes a risk when cooked food is left at room temperature for too long.

    Monday 30 October 2023
  • Artist’s impression of a record-breaking Fast Radio Burst, passing from a distant host galaxy to the Milky Way. ESO/M. Kornmesser
    • Astronomy
    • Technology

    We traced a powerful radio signal to the most distant source yet – a galaxy billions of lightyears away

    Every day and night, hundreds of thousands of intense, brief flashes of radiation suddenly flicker on and then off all across the sky. These “fast radio bursts” are invisible to the naked eye, but to a radio telescope many almost outshine everything else in the sky for a few thousandths of a second.

    Friday 20 October 2023