Scientists may be able to discriminate cancerous prostate cells found in bodily fluids from healthy ones, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered. The breakthrough technology will be useful in in developing a microdevice that will help in understanding when prostate cancer will metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body, researchers said. "There have been studies to find the relationship between the number of cancer cells in the blood, and the outcome of the disease," said first author Alessia Pallaoro, postdoctoral fellow in UCSB's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "The higher the number of cancer cells there are in the patient's blood, the worse the prognosis."Although the primary tumor does not kill prostate cancer patients, the researchers explained, metastasis does. "The delay is not well understood," said Gary Braun, second author and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. "There is a big focus on understanding what causes the tumor to shed cells into the blood. If you could catch them all, then you could stop metastasis. The first thing is to monitor their appearance."Using a type of laser spectroscopy called surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, the team of researchers were able to develop a way of discriminating between cancerous and non-cancerous cells.The new technique could be expanded by adding more colors as more biomarkers are found, Pallaoro said.