Satellite Banner
Genomics
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

Join For Free

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 3,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,500+ 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

A Programming Language for Living Cells
New language lets researchers design novel biological circuits.
Monday, April 04, 2016
Cancer Cells Remodel Environments Before Spreading
Researchers at MIT have found that the cancer cells remodel their environment to make it easier to reach nearby blood vessels.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Paving the Way for Metastasis
Cancer cells remodel their environment to make it easier to reach nearby blood vessels.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
A New Way to Discover DNA Modifications
Researchers systematically find molecules that help regulate and protect DNA.
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Mapping Regulatory Elements
Systematically searching DNA for regulatory elements indicates limits of previous thinking
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Curing Disease by Repairing Faulty Genes
New delivery method boosts efficiency of CRISPR genome-editing system.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Supply Chain
Chemists discover how a single enzyme maintains a cell’s pool of DNA building blocks.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
How Cancer Cells Spread
Study offers new targets for drugs that may prevent cancer from spreading.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Scaling Up Synthetic-Biology Innovation
MIT professor’s startup makes synthesizing genes many times more cost effective.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Delivering microRNAs for Cancer Treatment
Scientists exploit gene therapy to shrink tumors in mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing Hurdle Overcome
Team re-engineers system to dramatically cut down on editing errors; improvements advance future human applications.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
Drug-Resistance Mechanism in Tumor Cells Unravelled
Targeting the RNA-binding protein that promotes resistance could lead to better cancer therapies.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Quantum Physics Meets Genetic Engineering
Researchers use engineered viruses to provide quantum-based enhancement of energy transport.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Viruses Join Fight Against Harmful Bacteria
Engineered viruses could combat human disease and improve food safety.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Targeting DNA
Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Scientific News
Monovar Drills Down Into Cancer Genome
Rice, MD Anderson develop program to ID mutations in single cancer cells.
Autism and Cancer Share a Remarkable Number of Risk Genes
Researchers with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, MIND Institute identify more than 40 common genes.
Number Of Known Genetic Risk Factors For Endometrial Cancer Doubled
An international collaboration of researchers has identified five new gene regions that increase a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer, one of the most common cancers to affect women, taking the number of known gene regions associated with the disease to nine.
Genetic Variant May Help Explain Why Labradors Are Prone To Obesity
A genetic variation associated with obesity and appetite in Labrador retrievers – the UK and US’s favourite dog breed – has been identified by scientists at the University of Cambridge. The finding may explain why Labrador retrievers are more likely to become obese than dogs of other breeds.
How Scientists Use DNA to Track Disease Outbreaks
They’re the top questions on everyone’s mind when a new disease outbreak happens: where did the virus come from? When did this happen? How long has it been spreading in a particular country or group of people?
Genetic Risk Factors of Disparate Diseases Share Similar Biological Underpinnings
Penn Institute for Biomedical Informatics and colleagues identify "roadmap" of disease mechanisms to identify candidate drug targets.
Stem Cells Know How to Unwind
Research led by the Babraham Institute with collaborators in the UK, Canada and Japan has revealed a new understanding of how an open genome structure supports the long-term and unrestricted developmental potential in embryonic stem cells.
Childhood Asthma Research Receives $2M
Research into the impact of a child’s upbringing and social and physical environments on the development of asthma will receive $2 million to tackle the condition that affects as many as one in three Canadians.
Five New Breast Cancer Genes Found
Discovery of mutations paves the way for personalised treatment of breast cancer.
Cell Transplant Treats Parkinson’s in Mice
A University of Wisconsin—Madison neuroscientist has inserted a genetic switch into nerve cells so a patient can alter their activity by taking designer drugs that would not affect any other cell.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
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
3,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!