Shh! Can you hear cancer?

Shh! Can you hear cancer?

Doctors looking to see if cancer has spread may be able to one day simply listen for it, US researchers report. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia say they have used a technique called photoacoustic detection to pick up the characteristic vibrations of melanoma cells in the blood.

They say their method could let oncologists spot as few as 10 cancer cells in a blood sample, catching a tumour’s spread before it can settle into another organ.

Writing in the October issue of the journal Optics Letters, the researchers say they combined laser techniques from the field of optics and ultrasound techniques from acoustics. They used a laser to make cells vibrate and then picked up the characteristic sound of melanoma cells.

The researchers say they were able to detect melanoma cells obtained from actual patients.

The dark, microscopic granules of melanin in the melanoma cancer cells absorb the energy bursts from the blue laser light. As the melanoma cells expand and contract, they generate crackling sounds that can be picked them up with special microphones and analysed by computer.

Other human cells do not contain pigments with the same colour as melanin, so the melanin signature is easy to tell apart from other noises, says Assistant Professor John Viator, a biomedical engineer who worked on the study. “The only reason there could be melanin in the human blood is that there would be melanoma cells,” he says.

A blood screening test could reassure patients who have a growth removed, or tell a doctor to start chemotherapy quickly because the cancer has already started to spread. “It could take just 30 minutes to find out if there are any circulating cancer cells,” Viator says.

There’s more . . .


Murphy: Avalanche Golden Retriever-in-training


A friend indeed
By Sierra Countis, Sierra Sun

SQUAW VALLEY — Murphy, a 3-month-old golden retriever, is a fourth-generation ski patrol dog at Squaw Valley USA. But, like any rambunctious puppy, Murphy seemed blissfully unaware of the avalanche training going on around him Wednesday morning as he sat in the snow and gnawed on his leash. “He’s on fire” with excitement, said Murphy’s handler, Eric Seelenfreund of Squaw Valley’s ski patrol.

Starting out with simple lessons, Murphy practiced “puppy runaway” drills, where Seelenfreund would hide in a snow cave and let the young pup find him.

Twelve ski patrol dogs and their handlers from Squaw Valley and other area resorts joined Murphy and Rasco, his golden retriever sire, during a week-long training and certification event with the Placer County Avalanche Canine Team.

Using dogs to rescue avalanche victims “really came to fruition within the last two to three years,” said Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Ingalls. In the past, area resorts haven’t had a certified canine team as a resource for avalanche searches, Ingalls said. Response time is critical for such rescues, he said.

“One canine team is just as effective as 45 searchers,” Ingalls said.

Craig Noble, head of the avalanche dog program at Squaw Valley, agrees that using ski patrol dogs to locate a victim caught in an avalanche is highly effective. Noble said the ski patrol dogs “are sort of like an insurance program.”

There’s much more . . . .