Researchers Utilize Smartphones to Monitor Cancer Treatment

For individuals receiving treatment for cancer, complete blood counts are vital for assessing the degree of toxicity from treatment with chemotherapy or radiation, which places patients at high risk for serious infections and requires that they remain at home to prevent acquiring infections from public places.

Instead of making weekly visits to clinics or commercial laboratories to have blood drawn, patients may one day use a cell phone attachment and software being developed by biomedical engineers to measure platelet count, neutrophil count and hemoglobin levels in real time at home. The information can be obtained from a single drop of blood obtained via finger prick.

Analogous to at-home glucose monitors that diabetics use, the device – called the Quantum CBC – uses a cell phone-integrated microscope to analyze the blood, which is loaded into a disposable cartridge. The cartridge contains a channel with a fluorescent dye that binds to platelets and white blood cells, along with quantum dots targeted to neutrophils.

“Using this system, patients could test themselves whenever and wherever they desire to determine when they are at risk for infection, when they can leave their homes and when they require a transfusion,” said Wilbur Lam, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University. “This device will empower cancer patients, allowing them to take an active role in their treatment and enhance their quality of life.”

Lam is collaborating on this project with Gang Bao, the Robert A. Milton Chair in Biomedical Engineering and College of Engineering Distinguished Professor at Georgia Tech. The project is supported by the Coulter Foundation. 

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Writer: Abby Robinson