Detecting Cancer Spreading with a Magnetic Probe

Research scientists from the Ian Wark Institute at the University of South Australia have developed a new technology to determine whether cancer has disseminated throughout the body, potentially providing surgeons with more accurate information on cancer spreading site and improving patients’ care. While current technology based on radiolabeled contrast agents performs well for superficial cancer such as breast cancer and melanoma, its efficacy for cancer of the internal organs remains poor.

Associate Professor Benjamin Thierry and Mr Aidan Cousins at the Ian Wark Institute, in collaboration with Dr Sarah Thompson from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, designed and validated in a pre-clinical model a novel ultrasensitive handheld magnetic probe which detects small amounts of clinically introduced magnetic material in lymph nodes. Combined with MRI, the magnetometer probe is used to accurately identify the physical location of the sentinel lymph node, which is the most likely to be the first to harbour cancer cells as a part of their process of dissemination to distant organs. Sentinel node biopsy is commonly used in breast cancer to determine the extent or stage of cancer in the body and guide treatment.  This project has received funding from the Government of South Australia via the Manufacturing Works, Medical Technologies Program (MTP) towards the development of an advanced prototype that could be tested clinically.

Mr Cousins presented this research (“Oesophageal Sentinel Lymph Node Identification in a Swine Model using Magnetic Lymphotropic Contrast Agents”) at the 23rd Australian Conference on Microscopy and Microanalysis (ACMM23) and the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2014), Adelaide Convention Centre, South Australia, from February 2-6 2014.



Name: Benjamin Thierry

Affiliation: Ian Wark Institute of the University of South Australia


Provisional patent filed for Aidan’s probe and ICONN presentation