”You have cancer.”
Sadly, about 40% of us
will hear those 3 words within our lifetime.
And half will not survive.
This means that 2/5 of your closest friends and relatives,
will be diagnosed with some form of cancer,
and one will die.
Beyond the physical hardships,
roughly 1/3 of cancer survivors here in the US,
will go into debt from treatment.
And there’re at least 2.5 times more likely to declare bankruptcy,
than those without cancer.
This disease is pervasive.
It’s emotionally draining.
And for many, financially destructive.
But a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
Finding cancer early,
closer to its Genesis is one of the critical factors
to improving treatment options,
reducing its emotional impact,
and minimizing financial burdens.
Most importantly, finding cancer early,
which is one of the primary aims of my research,
greatly enhances your odds of survival.
If we just look at the case of breast cancer for example,
we find that those who are diagnosed and treated at stage 1,
have a 5-year survival rate of nearly 100%.
Odds have decreased to just 22%,
if treated at stage 4.
A similar trends are found for colorectal and ovarian cancer.
Now we’re all aware that
an early diagnosis that is accurate
is critical for survival.
The problem is is that
many cancer diagnostic tools are invasive,
costly, often inaccurate,
and they can take an agonizing amount of time
to get the results back.
Still worse, when it comes to some forms of cancer,
比如卵巢癌 肺癌 或者胰腺癌时
such as ovarian, liver, or pancreatic cancer,
good screening methods simply don’t exist.
Meaning that often people wait until physical symptoms surface,
which are themselves already indicators of late-stage progression,
Like a tornado strike in an area
without an early warning system,
There is no alarm to warn,
for the danger is already at your doorstep,
when your odds of survival are greatly reduced.
Having the convenience and accessibility of regular screening options,
that are affordable, non-invasive,
and could provide results much sooner,
would provide us with a formidable weapon
in the fight against cancer.
An early warning would allow us to
get out ahead of the disease,
instead of merely following in its relentless wake.
and this is exactly what I’ve been doing.
For the past 3 years,
I’ve been developing technologies
that could ultimately aid clinicians with
rapid, early stage cancer diagnostics.
And I’ve been fueled by a deep scientific curiosity,
and a passion to change these statistics.
Last year however,
this fight became much more personal,
when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was an experience that added a strong,
and unexpected, emotional dimension to these efforts.
I know firsthand how life-altering treatment can be.
And I’m keenly aware of the emotional havoc
that cancer can wreak on a family,
which in our case included our two young daughters.
Because we’ve found it early,
during a routine mammogram,
we were able to focus primarily on treatment options,
for the localized tumor,
reaffirming to me how important an early diagnosis is.
Unlike other forms of cancer,
mammograms do offer an early stage screening option for breast cancer.
Still, not everyone has this done,
or they may develop breast cancer
before the middle age recommendation for having a mammogram.
So there’s still a lot of room for improvement,
even for cancers that do have screening options,
and of course considerable benefits for those that don’t.
A key challenge then for cancer researchers
is to develop methods that make regular screening
for many types of cancers much more accessible.
Imagine a scenario where during a regular checkup,
your doctor can take a simple,
non-invasive urine sample or other liquid biopsy,
and present you with the results
before you even leave the doctor’s office.
Such a technology could dramatically reduce the number of people,
who slip through the net of an early stage cancer diagnosis.
Now my research team of engineers and biochemists
is working on exactly this challenge.
We’re working on ways to
frequently activate an early stage cancer alarm,
by enabling regular screenings
that would start when a person is healthy.
So that action could be taken to stop cancer
the moment it emerges,
and before it can progress beyond its infancy.
The silver bullet in this case are tiny vesicles.
Little escape pods regularly shed by cells called exosomes.
Exosomes are important biomarkers
that provide an early warning system
for the development of cancer.
And because they are abundantly present
in just about every bodily fluid,
including blood, urine and saliva,
they are extremely attractive for non-invasive liquid biopsies.
There’s just one problem,
an automated system for rapidly sorting these important biomarkers
is not currently available.
We’ve created a technology that we call Nano-Dld,
that is capable of precisely this.
Automated exosome isolation,
to aid rapid cancer diagnostics.
Exosomes are the newest early warning weapon, if you will,
to emerge on the liquid biopsy front,
and they are really really small.
They measure just 30 to 150 nanometers in diameter.
This is so tiny,
that you can fit about a million of them
into a single red blood cell.
That’s roughly the difference between a golf ball,
and a fine-grained piece of sand.
Once thought to be little bins for unwanted cellular waste,
it has been found that cells actually communicate
by producing and absorbing these exosomes
which contain surface receptors,
proteins and other genetic material
collected from their cell of origin.
Now, when absorbed by a neighboring cell,
exosomes release their contents into the receiving cell,
and can set in motion fundamental changes in gene expression.
Some good, and this is where cancer comes in.
Some bad, because they are closed
in the material of the mother cell.
And contain a sample of its environment,
they provide a genetic snapshot,
of that self health and its origin.
All of these qualities make exosomes invaluable messengers
that potentially allow physicians to eavesdrop on your health
at the cellular level.
To catch cancer early however,
you have to frequently intercept these messages,
to determine when cancer-causing troublemakers within your body,
decide to start staging a coup,
which is why regular screening is so critical,
and why we’re developing technologies to make this possible.
Now, while the first exosome-based diagnostics emerged on the market,
just this year, they are not yet part of mainstream health care options.
In addition to their recent emergence,
another factor that’s limiting their widespread adoption
is that, currently, no automated exosome isolation system exists
to make regular screening economically accessible.
The current gold standard for exosome isolation,
includes ultra centrifugation,
a process requiring expensive laboratory equipment,
a trained lab tech,
and about 30 hours of time
to process a sample.
We’ve come up with a different approach
for achieving automated exosome isolation,
from a sample such as urine.
We use a chip based,
continuous flow separation technique
called deterministic lateral displacement.
And we have done with it,
what the semiconductor industry has done so successfully
for the past 50 years.
We shrunk the dimensions of this technology from the micronscale,
the true nanoscale.
So how does it work?
In a nutshell,
a set of tiny pillars, separated by nanoscopic gaps,
are arranged in such a way that the system
divides the fluid into streamlines.
With the larger cancer-related nanoparticles
being separated through a process of redirection
from the smaller healthier ones,
which can in contrast,
move around the pillars in a zigzag type motion,
in the direction of fluid flow.
The net result is a complete separation of these two particle populations.
You can visualize this separation process,
similar to traffic on a highway,
that separates into two roads,
with one road going into a low clearance tunnel under a mountain,
the other road going around it.
Here, smaller cars can go through the tunnel,
while larger trucks, carrying potentially hazardous material,
are forced to take the detour route.
Traffic is effectively separated by size and contents,
without impeding its flow.
And this is exactly how our system works,
on a much much smaller scale.
The idea here is that the separation process for screening
could be as simple as processing a sample of urine, blood, or saliva,
which is a near-term possibility within the next few years,
Ultimately, it could be used to
isolate and detect target exosomes
associated with the particular type of cancer,
sensing and reporting their presence within minutes.
This would make rapid diagnostics virtually painless.
the ability to separate and enrich biomarkers
with nanoscale precision in an automated way,
opens the door to better understanding diseases such as cancer,
with applications ranging from sample preparation,
to diagnostics and from drug resistance monitoring to therapeutics.
Even before my wife’s bout with cancer,
it was a dream of mine
to facilitate the automation of this process,
to make regular screening more accessible.
Similar to the way,
Henry Ford made the automobile accessible to the general population,
through development of the assembly line.
Automation is the key to accessibility.
And in the spirit of the Hoover dream,
“a chicken in every pot, and a car in every garage.”
We’re developing a technology
that could ultimately place
an early-warning cancer detection system in every home.
This would allow every man, woman, and child
the opportunity to be regularly tested,
while they’re still healthy,
catching cancer when it first emerges.
It is my hope and dream
to help people around the world,
avoid the high costs,
physical, financial and emotional,
faced by today’s cancer patients,
hardships that I’m well-acquainted with.
I’m also happy to report
that because we caught my wife’s cancer early,
her treatment was successful.
And she is now, thankfully, cancer-free.
It is an outcome
that I would like to see for everyone
with a cancer diagnosis.
With the work that my team has already done
on separation of nanoscale biomarkers,
for a rapid early stage cancer diagnostics.
I am optimistic that within the next decade,
this type of technology will be available,
帮助我们保护我们的朋友 家人 以及后代
helping protect our friends, our family and future generations.
Even if they are so unlucky
is to be diagnosed with cancer,
that early stage alarm will provide a strong beacon of hope.