App being developed to detect breast cancer gene

Breast cancer gene app

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, on average every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Mammograms can detect when a tumor is maybe 1 or 1.5 centimeters,” explained Manas Gartia, an assistant professor at Louisiana State University.

Woman and men commonly rely on costly diagnostic exams to find potential cancer risks, but a new app developed by Gartia could essentially stop cancer in its tracks.

“There is no incentive to make something cheaper. We don’t think about making it cheaper, we always think about making it better,” Gartia said. “Mainly the idea is how we can identify those high-risk patients.”

The app, which is still in the process of being developed and does not yet have a name, is for people who have a family history of breast cancer.

Gartia says patients could potentially avoid going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy if they can detect the gene early.

The process begins with a blood or saliva sample is taken from a patient. The DNA from that sample is extracted and placed on a sensor.

Gartia says it takes about 20 minutes for the sample to activate once placed on the nitrocellulose (NC) paper.

App users place their phones on top of a microscope called the FluoroZen and take a picture through the app. A few minutes later the user will know whether or not they have the breast cancer gene.

“The app will basically analyze the picture to see where we have the color. If the color is in the middle it’s positive,” Gartia explains. “If there is no color in the middle then it’s negative. If there is a color with less intensity then there is a mismatch with that gene or that particular mutation. We then can identify how much mutation is there or whether it’s positive or negative.”

According to information provided by officials at LSU, “The FluoroZen detects the fluorescent oligonucleotide spots on the NC paper using two light spectrum filters—one to excite the fluorescent dye and the second to capture the emission spectrum. The spots with higher intensity will be brighter, indicating the presence of the mutated BRCA1 gene. A smartphone, which is attached to the POC device, then shows the results (a simple YES or NO) on the screen after taking a picture of the spots.”

All this is done at the doctor’s office where a specialist will have to verify the results, but the professor says this new development could be the first step in early detection.

“If you're looking at the 5-year survival rate for early detected cancer, those are on most 100 % or greater than 90%. That means they can be cancer free for their whole life if it can be detected early,” he says.

This app is expected to be available within the next year and a half.

Officials say the testing would be more affordable. Gartia says it would only cost $50 or less to run a test, though that’s no guarantee doctors and hospitals wouldn’t increase the cost.

Gartia says only medical providers will be able to purchase the equipment and tools necessary to conduct the test.

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