Life-saving early warning diagnostic for cancer and COVID-19 patients


Our researchers have developed an innovative and potentially life-saving diagnostic device – the Immuno-storm chip – that identifies which cancer and COVID-19 patients are at risk of a potentially lethal ‘cytokine storm’.

The nanotechnology device could help healthcare workers triage and closely monitor high risk patients, begin treatment much earlier, and personalise treatment to each specific patient.

Cytokines are small proteins that act as messengers between cells in the immune system. They play a critical role in triggering inflammation by stimulating the movement of immune cells toward sites of injury or infection.

However, if the release of cytokines becomes uncontrolled, this causes hyperinflammation which damages tissue. This, in turn, causes more cytokines to be released in a vicious, potentially lethal cycle called a ‘cytokine storm’. 

Around 80% of cancer patients that undergo cutting-edge immunotherapy are likely to have an adverse response, such as a cytokine storm – a potentially lethal situation for which until now there have been no monitoring technologies. 

Cytokine storms are now also becoming associated with COVID-19 long-haul symptoms.

Until now it has been very difficult to predict who will develop a cytokine storm. However, the new Immuno-storm chip can detect a warning signal on a miniaturised platform with minimal sample. 

Whether in cancer treatment or when monitoring infectious diseases such as acute COVID-19, long-haul COVID-19 and sepsis, the Immuno-storm chip could provide critical medical information to guide important clinical decisions and save lives.

For example, it would allow hospitals to focus resources on patients at high-risk of a cytokine storm, while low-risk patients are monitored from home.

Detection in vulnerable patients could also be used to personalise their therapy, tuned in to alleviate their specific excessive immune system response.