This iPhone gadget can detect cancer with 99% accuracy

It may not be as feature-rich as the newer iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, but a research team from Washington State University has just proved there's life in the iPhone 5 yet – and, possibly, some lives to be saved with the handset, too.

The research team, led by assistant professor Lei Li, has made a portable gadget powered by Apple's smartphone that can detect cancerous cells in an instant, analysing eight samples at once – unprecedented for an analysis tool of this kind. This allows for an incredible 99 percent accuracy rate.

Li's cancer spotter can detect human interleukin-6 (IL-6) which is a known marker for prostrate, liver, lung, breast and epithelial cancers. It uses a spectrometer, which measures the light spectrum to identify amounts and types of chemicals associated with cancerous cells in a sample.


Portable and, thanks to an off-the-shelf smartphone at its core, relatively affordable, the device could be used to help increase cancer detection rates around the world, where access to medical care can be difficult.

“The spectrometer would be especially useful in clinics and hospitals that have a large number of samples without on-site labs, or for doctors who practice abroad or in remote areas,” said Li. 

“They can’t carry a whole lab with them. They need a portable and efficient device.”

Li is now working on a design that will accommodate any smartphone, including Android devices like the Google Pixel, and not just Apple's iPhone 5.

Though its device is only a component in a larger machine here, Apple will be pleased to see its phone being used in such a way. The Cupertino company has made no secret of its ambitions to become a major player in the health industry, with its Apple Watch 2 wearable currently leading the charge.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.