Every year 14,1 million people all over the world are diagnosed with cancer. Despite the existing treatments, 8,2 million people yearly die from the disease. To avoid a further increase of this number due to the growing and aging world population, better and affordable treatments have to come onto the market very soon.
The most common treatment of cancer is chemotherapy. For several years now, immunotherapy is on the rise such as cell-based immunotherapy. The patient’s own immune cells are filtered out of his blood and modified in a lab. After re-introduction in the patient, they have the ability to kill cancer cells in an efficient way.
Immunotherapy can become the most important cancer cure. Unfortunately, the cost of this therapy is still enormous: a few 100,000 US dollar. This is related to the cumbersome workflows and regulatory requirements for scientists to proof the quality of the treatment.
To enable hospitals to use this therapy on a large scale, the complexity and cost of the workflow must be reduced. Chip technology can help to achieve this goal. For example, imec has developed a new cell sorting technique based on the use of micro vapor bubbles. Using this technique, the immune cells can be separated from other blood cells quickly and without any damage.
Also for the genetic modification of the immune cells, imec developed a groundbreaking technology. The cells are grown on a silicon chip with thousands of small electrodes. When a small voltage is applied to the cell, the cell membrane opens up and the genetic code is entered into the cell.
Thanks to chip technology techniques for early cancer diagnosis and treatment can become faster and more accurate. By using standard chip manufacturing processes, the cost of the equipment decreases. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way to make cell therapy accessible and affordable for every patient with cancer.
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