Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are shed by primary tumors and allow the cancer to metastasize to the distant sites. While this is a devastating tool in cancer’s war chest, it offers clinicians a marker through which to diagnose and monitor progress of the disease. Since the discovery of CTCs over a hundred years ago, researchers have been developing ever more sensitive methods of capturing them since they’re extremely rare in whole blood.
Now a team from Massachusetts General Hospital has reported in journal Science Translational Medicine further refinements of their CTC-iChip that we initially reported three years ago. The new iteration of the device can process 107 cells per second and is applicable to just about any cancer type. Importantly, the CTC-iChip does not require using tumor-specific target molecules, perhaps allowing it to be used as a cancer screening tool. So far its ability to detect CTCs has been shown in epithelial and nonepithelial cancers of the lung, prostate, pancreas, breast, and melanoma.
From the study abstract:
The sorting of CTCs as unfixed cells in solution allows for the application of high-quality clinically standardized morphological and immunohistochemical analyses, as well as RNA-based single-cell molecular characterization. The combination of an unbiased, broadly applicable, high-throughput, and automatable rare cell sorting technology with generally accepted molecular assays and cytology standards will enable the integration of CTC-based diagnostics into the clinical management of cancer.
Study in Science Translational Medicine: Inertial Focusing for Tumor Antigen–Dependent and –Independent Sorting of Rare Circulating Tumor Cells