Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Automation & Microfluidics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Device Finds Stray Cancer Cells in Patients’ Blood

Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Bookmark and Share
A microfluidic device that captures circulating tumor cells could give doctors a noninvasive way to diagnose and track cancers.

Doctors typically diagnose cancer via a biopsy, which can be invasive and expensive. A better way to diagnose the disease would be to detect telltale tumor cells floating in the bloodstream, but such a test has proved difficult to develop because stray cancer cells are rare, and it’s difficult to separate them from the mélange of cells in circulation.

Now researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School say they’ve built a microfluidic device that can quickly grab nearly any type of tumor cell, an advance that may one day lead to simple blood tests for detecting or tracking cancer.

Similar, existing devices—including earlier versions developed by the authors of the study in Wednesday’s online issue of Science Translational Medicine—depend on tumor-specific biomarkers on the surface of the cells to pull them out of a blood sample, meaning that a given device won’t work for all cancer types. What’s more, the efficiency by which the tumor cells are purified from other cell types is generally low and time-consuming. In a given blood sample, circulating tumor cells are rare—there may be only one tumor cell for every billion cells.

The new device is a “substantial step forward from previous microfluidic devices,” says Peter Kuhn, a circulating-tumor-cell researcher at the Scripps Research Institute. Kuhn was not involved in the study. The device combines existing microfluidic techniques of cell sorting into a single device, he says. The result is that the tumor cells can be pulled out of a blood sample quicker, and without prior knowledge of their molecular characteristics.

Mehmet Toner, director of the BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems Resource Center at MGH, and colleagues report that their latest chip can isolate circulating-tumor cells in the blood, and could apply to all types of cancer. “For our earlier chip, you needed to know something on the surface of the tumor cells,” says Toner. In those devices, a small sample of blood would flow through microfluidic chambers, some of which contained an antibody that grabbed tumor cells. That system also took four to five hours to process a single blood sample. “But for early detection and to make this useful for virtually all cancers, we needed to increase the throughput and to make it [tumor-type] independent,” he says.

Identifying these wandering tumor cells could also help researchers study a cancer’s progression and help doctors track treatments or screen for new cases. By studying the surface proteins or genetic profiles of the cancer cells, doctors and researchers could learn which mutations are present in the cancer and perhaps tailor molecularly targeted treatments accordingly. The authors show that 15 tumor cells were recovered from a blood sample from a prostate cancer patient. The gene expression levels of each cell were studied individually and a mix of mutations was found.

The device developed by Toner’s group combines magnetic labeling of cells and microfluidic sorting to process a sample of blood in about an hour or two. To capture tumor cells regardless of their cancer type, the system first tags white blood cells with magnetic beads that are covered with antibodies that recognize proteins on the surface of the immune cells. The sample is then passed into microfluidic chambers that clear out red blood cells, plasma, and unused free magnetic beads based on their size. Then the device discards the tagged white blood cells using a magnetic field. “In the past, we were focused on tumor cells that we know very little about,” says Toner. “Here, we throw away the cells we know everything about, the blood cells,” he says.

The advantage of the new cell-sorting device over previous attempts is that it successfully brings together multiple technologies, such as size separation and magnetic-tag separation, already used in the field, says Gajus Worthington, president and CEO of Fluidigm, a California company that produces microfluidic devices for biomedical research. “The key thing here is the integration, which is crucial to anything related to single-cell work,” he says. All the steps in Toner’s device take place in similar volumes. “If you have to go from one microstep back to macrostep back to microstep, there are losses and complexity, which leads to noise,” says Worthington.

Toner notes that the Holy Grail for circulating-tumor-cell technology would be to diagnose patients early. “About 10 percent of cancer patients survive if they are diagnosed late, but almost 90 percent survive if they are diagnosed early,” says Toner. But whether or not these circulating tumor cells can be found in early-stage patients is not yet clear, says Luis Diaz, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Diaz was not involved in the study. “Early-stage cancers might release very few cells into circulation,” he says. “That’s historically the problem with circulating tumor cells; you can only find them in advanced cancers.”


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Freshly Squeezed Vaccines
Microfluidic cell-squeezing device opens new possibilities for cell-based vaccines.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Faster, Smaller, More Informative
Device can measure the distribution of tiny particles as they flow through a microfluidic channel.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Using Sound Waves To Detect Rare Cancer Cells
Acoustic device can rapidly isolate circulating tumor cells from patient blood samples.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Mechanically Stimulating Stem Cells
MIT biological engineering graduate student Frances Liu is studying ways to alter mechanical properties of cell environments to produce desired chemical outputs.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
New Way To Model Sickle Cell Behavior
Microfluidic device allows researchers to predict behavior of patients’ blood cells.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Watching How Cells Interact
New device allows scientists to glimpse communication between immune cells.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Researchers Find that Going with the Flow Makes Bacteria Stick
In surprising new discovery, scientists show that microbes are more likely to adhere to tube walls when water is moving.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
A Microchip for Metastasis
MIT researchers design a microfluidic platform to see how cancer cells invade specific organs.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Self-Steering Particles Go with the Flow
Asymmetrical particles could make lab-on-a-chip diagnostic devices more efficient and portable.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Microfluidic Platform Gives a Clear Look at a Crucial Step in Cancer Metastasis
A microfluidic platform provides a high-resolution view of a crucial step in cancer metastasis.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Watching Tumors Burst Through a Blood Vessel
A microfluidic platform provides a high-resolution view of a crucial step in cancer metastasis.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Detecting DNA in space
Researchers, in a step toward analyzing Mars for signs of life, find that gene-sequencing chip can survive space radiation.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Watching Fluid Flow at Nanometer Scales
Researchers find that tiny nanowires can lift liquids as effectively as tubes.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Putting the Squeeze on Cells
By deforming cells, researchers can deliver RNA, proteins and nanoparticles for many applications.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Tiny Tools Help Advance Medical Discoveries
MIT researchers are designing tools to analyze cells at the microscale.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Scientific News
Futuristic Brain Probe Allows for Wireless Control of Neurons
NIH-funded scientists developed an ultra-thin, minimally invasive device for controlling brain cells with drugs and light.
Microfluidic Device Mixes And Matches DNA For Synthetic Biology
Researchers have developed a microfluidic device that quickly builds packages of DNA and delivers them into bacteria or yeast for further testing.
Artificial Pancreas Controls Diabetes
Scientists are reporting the development of an implantable “artificial pancreas” that continuously measures a person’s blood sugar, or glucose, level and can automatically release insulin as needed.
Major Step for Implantable Drug-Delivery Device
MIT spinout signs deal to commercialize microchips that release therapeutics inside the body.
Smart Insulin Patch Could Replace Painful Injections for Diabetes
A joint effort between diabetes doctors and biomedical engineers could revolutionize how people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels in check.
The Secrets of Secretion
Researchers have hacked nature's blueprints to create a new technology that could have broad-reaching impact on drug delivery systems and self-healing and anti-fouling materials.
New Tool on Horizon for Surgeons Treating Cancer Patients
Surgeons could know while their patients are still on the operating table if a tissue is cancerous, according to researchers.
Heartbeat on a Chip Could Improve Pharmaceutical Tests
A gravity-powered chip that can mimic a human heartbeat outside the body could advance pharmaceutical testing and open new possibilities in cell culture because it can mimic fundamental physical rhythms.
Unravelling the Mysteries of Carbonic Acid
Researchers have shown how gaseous carbon dioxide molecules are solvated by water to initiate the proton transfer chemistry that produces carbonic acid and bicarbonate.
Injectable Device Delivers Nano-View of the Brain
A team of researchers has developed a method of fabricating nanoscale electronic scaffolds that can be injected via syringe.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!