What Makes it so Difficult to Detect Cancer Cells

Summary: One day, medical engineers may be able to identify and detect a single cancer cell in the body.

One of the most substantial breakthroughs in the past 40 years has been the ability to utilize dual-labeled probes in a sample for the purposes of identifying a disease. This technique is already used with some degree of success in countries like Africa, where malaria detection remains a problem of time.

Time is a major factor in most of medical science, and the earlier that doctor’s can detect something is wrong the better chance the patient has of recovering. We are not at a place where detection of cancer can be done with 100% certainty, but we understand the logistics of it. One day, with the assistance of beacon probes and antisense molecules, we can detect and treat genetic diseases.


The first thing we need to do in order to eliminate a cancer cell is to be able to identify it, or distinguish it from every other cell in the human body. This is where things get tricky, and why cancer cures are elusive. Cancer cells don’t exhibit the same behavior or traits, but we could use a probe to make them appear brighter if they did. We already do this with diseases like malaria.

There have been promising leads, but so far not much luck in proper identification. We can see traits within the cells, such as surface proteins in blood cancer cells, but these same proteins are visible in normal cells as well.


In addition to identification is detection. We can see a single cell under a microscope, even observe DNA and RNA synthesis. What may prove challenging is detecting a single cell within the body. Hopefully, the future of medical science will have tackled some of these challenges head on.


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