A small scaffold device is designed to attract breast cancer cells. (University of Michigan College of Engineering)

A small device implanted under the skin can improve breast cancer survival by catching cancer cells. The implantable scaffold device is made of FDA-approved material commonly used in sutures and wound dressings. It’s biodegradable and can last up to two years within a patient.

The researchers envision it would be implanted under the skin, monitored with non-invasive imaging, and removed upon signs of cancer cell colonization, at which point treatment could be administered. The scaffold is designed to mimic the environment in other organs before cancer cells migrate there. The scaffold attracts the body’s immune cells, and the immune cells draw in the cancer cells. This then limits the immune cells from heading to the lung, liver or brain, where breast cancer commonly spreads.