By Reg Chapman


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New technology lets Minnesota doctors keep a better eye on cancer patients from the inside out.

It all starts with a sensor you swallow.

Brenda Jans Darling and her oncologist, Dr. Edward Greeno, are using digital medicine to treat her cancer.

“The idea behind the digital medicine is to give us a window into what’s happening with medications that our patients are taking at home,” Dr. Greeno said.

Chemotherapy drugs are co-encapsulated by a pharmacist with a small, ingestible sensor.

Digital Medicine (credit: CBS)

“There is a small sensor patch that I wear on my abdomen just 4 inches by 2 inches, just adheres to my skin, and that communicates with the sensors in the pill and it communicates also to the app on my phone,” Jans Darling said.

Dr. Greeno can also monitor the data to determine whether his patient is taking the medication properly, which leads to better outcomes.

The sensor is small, but where does it end up?

“The sensor is tiny like the size of a grain of sand and so it just passes right through. Parts of it just dissolve and what little bit’s left — little tiny bit of silicon, which really isn’t much more than a grain of sand — passes along with everything else,” Dr. Greeno said.

“Before I had the app and the sensors I had to dump my pills out and count, ‘Oh yeah, I took the right amount because I have this many left,’ so it gives a little peace of mind that way,” Jans Darling said.

The new technology helps patients take an active role in monitoring their medication. For Jans Darling, she is happy to give her doctor all the information he needs to help her win the battle against colon cancer.

“I think this is taking another step in the direction of how to make this disease go away,” Jans Darling said.

This technology was developed by Proteus Digital Health. University of Minnesota Health and Fairview Health Services is the first health system in the world to use it to treat cancer.

Reg Chapman

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