JAXA, University of Tokyo deploy satellite sensor technology against cancer

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

From: .japantimes.co.jp

A team of Japanese research institutes wants to hunt down the stem cells of human cancers by employing an ultra-precise observation sensor technology used in the Hitomi astronomy satellite.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the University of Tokyo’s Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) will produce a prototype detector by 2020 and test it on mice.

Researchers think the stem cells of cancers are strong enough to survive the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments used to eliminate cancer cells and later proliferate, causing cancer to re-emerge and metastasize.

To fully eliminate cancer, it is necessary to precisely grasp where its stem cells exist in the human body and their amounts.

The IPMU and JAXA last year set up a joint research center for aerospace and medical sciences. Starting this month, the institutes will fully promote their research by inviting researchers from Keio University’s School of Medicine and the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, sources in the team said.

The team will launch work to develop a radioactive isotope that adheres only to cancer stem cells and a device to track them that uses a sensor technology installed in Hitomi, JAXA’s X-ray astronomy satellite.

The device will allow illnesses such as brain cancer, which is difficult to detect by positron emission tomography (PET), to be tracked three-dimensionally with an accuracy of 0.1 mm or less, the sources said.

Hideyuki Saya, deputy head of Keio University Hospital and member of the research team, said brain cancer can recur even if none of its stem cells are found via PET. The new device will make it possible to detect them without fail, he said.