News Release

Would you prefer a mammogram, MRI, or saliva on a test strip?

This hand-held biosensor makes breast cancer screening fast, affordable, and accurate

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Institute of Physics

Printed circuit board used in the saliva-based biosensor, which can detect breast cancer biomarkers from extremely small saliva samples


The printed circuit board used in the saliva-based biosensor, which can detect breast cancer biomarkers from extremely small saliva samples in about five seconds, costs about $5. The design uses widely available components such as common glucose testing strips and the open-source Arduino platform.

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Credit: Hsiao-Hsuan Wan

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2024 — Breast cancer is on the rise, but new tools for early detection could save lives.

In Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B, by AIP Publishing, researchers from the University of Florida and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan reported successful results from a hand-held breast cancer screening device that can detect breast cancer biomarkers from a tiny sample of saliva. Their biosensor design uses common components, such as widely available glucose testing strips and the open-source hardware-software platform Arduino.

“Imagine medical staff conducting breast cancer screening in communities or hospitals,” author Hsiao-Hsuan Wan said. “Our device is an excellent choice because it is portable — about the size of your hand — and reusable. The testing time is under five seconds per sample, which makes it highly efficient.”

The device uses paper test strips treated with specific antibodies that interact with the targeted cancer biomarkers. A saliva sample is placed on the strip, and pulses of electricity are sent to electrical contact points on the biosensor device. These pulses cause the biomarkers to bind to the antibodies and alter the charge and capacitance over the electrode. This produces a change in the output signal, which can be measured and translated into digital information about how much biomarker is present.

The design is revolutionary compared to its alternatives. Mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs are costly and invasive and require large, specialized equipment, present low-dose radiation exposure, and can take days or weeks to return test results.

“In many places, especially in developing countries, advanced technologies like MRI for breast cancer testing may not be readily available,” Wan said. “Our technology is more cost-effective, with the test strip costing just a few cents and the reusable circuit board priced at $5. We are excited about the potential to make a significant impact in areas where people might not have had the resources for breast cancer screening tests before.”

The biosensor requires just a drop of saliva, and it can provide accurate test results even if the concentration of the cancer biomarker in the sample is only one quadrillionth of a gram, or one femtogram, per milliliter.

“The highlight for me was when I saw readings that clearly distinguished between healthy individuals and those with cancer,” Wan said. “We dedicated a lot of time and effort to perfecting the strip, board, and other components. Ultimately, we’ve created a technique that has the potential to help people all around the world.”


The article “High sensitivity saliva-based biosensor in detection of breast cancer biomarkers: HER2 and CA15-3” is authored by Hsiao-Hsuan Wan, Haochen Zhu, Chao-Ching Chiang, Jian-Sian Li, Fan Ren, Cheng-Tse Tsai, Yu-Te Liao, Dan Neal, Josephine F. Esquivel-Upshaw, and Stephen J. Pearton. It will appear in Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B on Feb. 13, 2024 (DOI: 10.1116/6.0003370). After that date, it can be accessed at


Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B, an AVS journal published by AIP Publishing, is devoted to publishing reports of original research, letters, and review articles covering multiple disciplines with a focus on microelectronics and nanotechnology. See


AVS is an interdisciplinary, professional society with some 4,500 members worldwide. Founded in 1953, AVS hosts local and international meetings, publishes five journals, serves members through awards, training and career services programs, and supports networking among academic, industrial, government, and consulting professionals. Its members come from across the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, engineering, and business and share a common interest in basic science, technology development and commercialization related to materials, interfaces, and processing.


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