RESEARCHERS from A*Star's IME Bioelectronics are developing a more efficient method of helping doctors assess effective treatment for cancer patients.

The method will allow more frequent tracking of a patient's response to the treatment, which will enable the physician to better tailor radiation or chemotherapy treatments, which can be uncomfortable and come with serious side effects.

The new device, which works by measuring the level of circulating tumour cells (CTCs), is expected to speed up the sample-to-answer process by more than 50 per cent, A*Star said in a statement on Wednesday.

Imaging techniques and biopsies are other methods of cancer diagnosis.

However, they require the tumour to reach a considerable size before it can be detected, making these methods unfavourable for early diagnoses.

Using CTCs to flag the presence of a tumour earlier will also be 'less invasive' than surgical biopsy methods, said A*Star.

Associate Professor Richie Soong, Senior Principal Investigator, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore said he envisioned IME's research would lower costs and speed up turnaround times for CTC analysis, allowing physicians to order the CTC test more frequently.

This in turn would facilitate a more informed and a faster decision making process, which promises better management and potentially improved outcomes for patients.

Cancer is the No. 2 killer in Singapore. From 2002 to 2006, there were 42,424 incidents of cancer diagnosed among Singapore residents.

New cancer detection method