Canadian researchers offer a new way of checking a woman's breast cancer risk in minutes with just droplets of blood or a sliver of breast tissue.
They introduced a new microchip device, which can measure levels of the hormone estrogen using far smaller samples than conventional methods, making it possible to quickly screen for breast cancer risk or check to see if breast cancer treatments are working.
"The new device is compatible with extremely small samples -- around 1,000 times smaller than the amount needed for conventional analyses," said Aaron Wheeler of the University of Toronto, whose study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The experimental device advances the notion of a so-called "lab on a chip" -- a device that shrinks down several lab functions onto a microchip.
Wheeler said other such tools rely on microchannels -- a series of interconnected, enclosed tubes -- but these cannot process tissue because they can clog up.
More than 400,000 women die from breast cancer globally every year.
Being able to directly test breast tissue could lead to faster test results, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said the device is still in the research phase. "We're looking for funding to work on building a prototype and moving this into commercialization," he said."We're anticipating within the next five years a product based on this technology will become available,"he added.
Reuters contributed to the report.