A new technique has been developed that is capable of tracing cancer cells around the body.
Scientists at Scripps Physics Oncology Center used a computer-intensive method to find a higher amount of high-definition circulating tumour cells than previous techniques were able.
It is thought the breakthrough could be particularly helpful for doctors treating patients with forms of prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer which are resistive to current chemotherapy drugs.
Dr Jorge Nieva, an oncologist at Billings Clinic at the establishment and leader of the study, said: "This technology will allow scientists to move away from mouse and cell culture systems and speed the delivery of cures for cancer in people."
The technique makes it possible for healthcare staff to track the development of cancer in real time.
According to Cancer Research UK, every two minutes a patient in the UK is diagnosed with some form of the disease, while more than one in three will develop cancer during their lifetime.