Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Proteomics
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 2,500+ 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

Bacterial Computing
The “friendly” bacteria inside our digestive systems are being given an upgrade, which may one day allow them to be programmed to detect and ultimately treat diseases such as colon cancer and immune disorders.
Monday, July 13, 2015
New Approach to Global Health Challenges
MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science brings many tools to the quest for new disease treatments and diagnostic devices.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Why Tumors Become Drug-Resistant
New findings could lead to drugs that fight back when tumors don’t respond to treatment.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Reducing Caloric Intake Delays Nerve Cell Loss
Study points to role of protein in anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Study IDs Key Protein for Cell Death
Findings may offer a new way to kill cancer cells by forcing them into an alternative programmed-death pathway.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Sorting out the Structure of a Parkinson’s Protein
Computer modeling may resolve conflicting results and offer hints for new drug-design strategies.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
New Technology May Enable Earlier Cancer Diagnosis
Nanoparticles amplify tumor signals, making them much easier to detect in the urine.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Evolution: It’s All in How You Splice It
MIT biologists find that alternative splicing of RNA rewires signaling in different tissues and may often contribute to species differences.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Researchers Synthesize a New Kind of Silk Fiber
Scientists find that music can help fine-tune the material’s properties.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
New Injectable Gels Toughen up after Entering the Body
These more durable gels could find applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering.
Friday, November 16, 2012
A Step Toward Stronger Polymers
Counting loops that weaken materials could help researchers eliminate structural flaws.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
A New Glow for Electron Microscopy
Protein-labeling technique allows high-resolution visualization of molecules inside cells.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Oscillating Microscopic Beads Could be Key to Biolab on a Chip
MIT team finds way to manipulate and measure magnetic particles without contact, potentially enabling multiple medical tests on a tiny device.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Strategies Converge on Target in Rare Leukemia
In order to treat AMKL in patients who do not respond to current therapies, researchers need a protein target at which to take aim.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Researchers Build a Toolbox for Synthetic Biology
Engineers design new proteins that can help control novel genetic circuits in cells.
Friday, August 03, 2012
Scientific News
Liquid Biopsies: Utilization of Circulating Biomarkers for Minimally Invasive Diagnostics Development
Market Trends in Biofluid-based Liquid Biopsies: Deploying Circulating Biomarkers in the Clinic. Enal Razvi, Ph.D., Managing Director, Select Biosciences, Inc.
Self-Assembling, Biomimetic Membranes May Aid Water Filtration
A synthetic membrane that self assembles and is easily produced may lead to better gas separation, water purification, drug delivery and DNA recognition, according to an international team of researchers.
Crystal Clear Images Uncover Secrets of Hormone Receptors
NIH researchers gain better understanding of how neuropeptide hormones trigger chemical reactions in cells.
Error Correction Mechanism in Cell Division
Cell biologists have reported an advance in understanding the workings of an error correction mechanism that helps cells detect and correct mistakes in cell division early enough to prevent chromosome mis-segregation and aneuploidy, that is, having too many or too few chromosomes.
Crucial for Stem Cell Survival Protein Identified Using Editing Tool CRISPR
A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has identified a protein that is integral to the survival and self-renewal processes of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC).
Sorting Through Cellular Statistics
Aaron Dinner, professor in chemistry, and his graduate student Herman Gudjonson are trying to read the manual of life, DNA, as part of the Dinner group’s research into bioinformatics—the application of statistics to biological research.
First Artificial Ribosome Designed
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins and enzymes within the cell.
The Genetic Roots of Adolescent Scoliosis
Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in collaboration with Keio University in Japan have discovered a gene that is linked to susceptibility of Scoliosis.
HIV Susceptibility Linked to Little-Understood Immune Cell Class
High levels of diversity among immune cells called natural killer cells may strongly predispose people to infection by HIV, and may be driven by prior viral exposures, according to a new study.
New Tech Enables Epigenomic Analysis with a Mere 100 Cells
A new technology that will dramatically enhance investigations of epigenomes, the machinery that turns on and off genes and a very prominent field of study in diseases such as stem cell differentiation, inflammation and cancer has been developed by researchers at Virginia Tech.
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
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!