Qun “Treen” Huo’s Nano Discovery: A Game Changer in Cancer Detection

Early detection is one of the primary factors which can change the odds with any cancer diagnosis. But imagine a test that is more sensitive and more exact than the current standard test for early-stage prostate cancer and costs less than a $1, yielding results in minutes!

Each year, more than 233,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, more than women with breast cancer and over 29,000 die from the disease, second only to lung cancer. The simple test developed by University of Central Florida scientist Qun “Treen” Huo holds the promise of earlier detection and it could reduce the number of unnecessary and invasive biopsies stemming from the less precise PSA test that’s now used.

“It’s fantastic,” said Dr. Inoel Rivera, a urologic oncologist at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, which collaborated with Huo on the recent pilot studies. “It’s a simple test. It’s much better than the test we have right now, which is the PSA, and it’s cost-effective.”

The Gold Rush

As cancerous tumors begin to develop, the body responds by producing antibodies. Huo’s test detects that immune response using gold nanoparticles about 10,000 times smaller than this “o.” When a few drops of blood serum are mixed with the gold nanoparticles, certain cancer biomarkers cling to the surface of the tiny particles, increasing their size and causing them to clump together.

Among researchers, gold nanoparticles are known for their extraordinary ef ciency at absorbing and scattering light. Huo and her team at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center developed a technique known as nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) to measure the size of the particles by analyzing the light they throw off. That size reveals whether a patient has prostate cancer and how advanced it may be. And although it uses gold, the test is cheap. A small bottle of nanoparticles suspended in water costs about $250, and contains enough for about 2,500 tests.

Simple & Cost Effective

“What’s different and unique about our technique is it’s a very simple process, and the material required for the test is less than $1,” Huo said. “And because it’s low-cost, we’re hoping most people can have this test in their doctor’s of ce. If we can catch this cancer in its early stages, the impact is going to be big.”

Huo also is researching her technique’s effectiveness as a screening tool for other tumors.

“Potentially, we could have a universal screening test for cancer,” she said. “Our vision is to develop an array of blood tests for early detection and diagnosis of all major cancer types, and these blood tests are all based on the same technique and same procedure.”

Huo co-founded Nano Discovery Inc., a startup company headquartered in a UCF Business Incubator, to commercialize the new diagnostic test. The company manufacturers a test device speci cally for medical research and diagnostic purposes.