Funder(s): ESRC Innogen Centre, Jamie King Urology Fund
MI Researcher(s): Gill Haddow

This qualitative research project sought to ascertain post-treatment cancer patients’ views of biosensors – a technology being developed that will assess the biological activity of tumours. Many of the tumours can be effectively treated with radiotherapy; however, some tumours are resistant to such treatment. Biosensors will be able to establish resistance by undertaking biological measurements of the surrounding biological environment ascertaining whether there are fluctuations in oxygen levels, pH values, and glucose. Information about these changes can then be sent from the sensor ex vivo. Practical challenges remain, however, regarding how such devices might be powered in vivo, transmitting the information outwith the body and the so-far limited potential for reducing the size of the biosensors. This as yet unperfected technology has the potential to alter radically the way that cancer therapy is delivered and tailored to the biology of the patient’s tumour.

However, there is a significant gap in knowledge relating to patient willingness to allow a sensor to be embedded into their tumour. Pre-project literature searches of databases (PubMed, JSTOR, First Search, Google Scholar) showed no such research was available. The views of cancer patients, who had successfully completed their anticancer treatment, were particularly important as they provided a guide to the acceptability of such devices for when they will be tested in groups of cancer patients in the future. This interview-study of 30 post-treatment cancer patients recovering from prostate, breast, and head/neck cancers constituted an important study in beginning to understand the views of such patients.