US-based firm Leuko, founded by a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has developed a device that will give doctors a non-invasive way to monitor cancer patients` health during chemotherapy — without the need of blood tests.

 

Chemotherapy and other treatments that take down cancer cells can also destroy patients` immune cells.

In some cases, the patient`s white blood cell (WBC) count gets dangerously low, a condition known as neutropenia, and the only way for doctors to monitor their patient`s white blood cells is through blood tests.

However, this new device will help doctors spot life-threatening infections in cancer patients remotely, according to MIT.

According to MIT, rather than drawing blood, this device uses light to look through the skin at the top of the fingernail and artificial intelligence to analyse and detect when WBCs reach dangerously low levels.

“Some of the physicians that we have talked to are very excited because they think future versions of our product could be used to personalise the dose of chemotherapy given to each patient,” said Leuko co-founder and CEO Carlos Castro-Gonzalez, a former postdoctorate at MIT.

“If a patient is not becoming neutropenic, that could be a sign that you could increase the dose. Then every treatment could be based on how each patient is individually reacting,” he added.

The technology was first developed by researchers at MIT in 2015. Over the next few years, they created a prototype and conducted a small study to validate their approach.

In a study of 44 patients in 2019, Leuko`s team showed the approach was able to detect when WBC levels dropped below a critical threshold with minimal false positives.

The company has been working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the last four years to design studies confirming their device is accurate and easy to use by untrained patients, MIT said.

Later this year, they expect to begin a pivotal study that will be used to register for FDA approval.

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