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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Blood-based test detects cancer earlier, from the February 2013 Harvard Health Letter

A fundamental strategy in the war against cancer is to catch it early, long before it has spread. Harvard researchers are advancing the timeline for doing this with the development of a hand-held device that can spot signals of cancer in a drop of blood, reports the February 2013 Harvard Health Letter.

Many kinds of cells shed microvesicles, small pouches that pucker off cells' outer membrane. For decades, researchers have ignored microvesicles, thinking of them as a kind of cellular debris. But in the last few years, scientists have discovered that microvesicles contain DNA and other molecules, and that they can be linked to the cell type from which they came. Cancer cells shed a lot of microvesicles. “So you would easily find a million to several billion tumor microvesicles per milliliter of blood,” says Dr. Ralph Weissleder, professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School.

Until now, finding cancer-related microvesicles required a complicated process that can take days. But at Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Systems Biology, which Dr. Weissleder directs, he and his team have developed a hand-held device that uses a nanotechnology sensor to detect tumor microvesicles in a drop of blood in about two hours.

The technology has the potential to diagnose cancer early. “It’s opening new frontiers in diagnostics that can save lives. We’re trying to figure out how useful it is for other cancers and diseases.”

Such a device could also be used to help determine how well a cancer treatment is working. That's because the device measures also measures the composition of microvesicles, which changes with cancer treatment.

Read the full-length article: Can we detect cancer earlier?”

Also in this issue of the Harvard Health Letter

  • Can we detect cancer earlier?
  • Ask the doctor: Treatment for high systolic pressure?
  • Ask the doctor: Why quit smoking at an older age?
  • Reduce your stroke risk
  • Game changer: An easier way to replace a heart valve
  • Tomatoes and stroke protection
  • Bad backs: Are you happy with your treatment?
  • Is hormone therapy safe again?
  • Advances in eye surgery
  • Latest Mohs skin cancer surgery guidelines
  • What you should know about: PPIs
  • News briefs: Exercise can add years to your life
  • News briefs: Combination therapy may be better for one common lung cancer
  • News briefs: Chronic kidney disease raises the risk of death regardless of age

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.