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February 22nd, 2010
Smaller Probes, Earlier Detection
Shad Thaxton, PhD: Growing up, I used to watch the G.I. Joe cartoon series. At the end of every episode was a short announcement by a G.I. Joe hero on any number of topics, ranging from avoiding old refrigerators as hiding places to promoting sportsmanship on the athletic field. Each would end with one of the characters saying, "Now we know!" followed by the G.I. Joe hero with "And knowing is half the battle."
We throw that phrase around occasionally in my laboratory, where we develop improved diagnostics for diseases like prostate cancer. Determining the disease at hand as early as possible is crucial to positive outcomes for patients. Of course, the other half of the battle is having an effective treatment. Although this piece focuses on the first part of the battle, we are working on the treatment part too.
Collaborative work with my laboratory; Chad Mirkin, professor of chemistry at Northwestern; Dr. William Catalona, a prostate cancer surgeon and expert at Northwestern; and biotech company Nanosphere uses recent advances in nanotechnology to improve upon the current PSA test and answer some of these questions. But, before we explore how the new test works, let's first take a look at how PSA is measured in the current process.
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