Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a microfluidic device to capture tumor-derived extracellular vesicles from patient blood samples. The device paves the way for minimally invasive characterization and monitoring of difficult-to-treat cancers, such as glioblastoma.
Assessing biomarkers present in the blood is a promising way to characterize and keep track of tumors, but some tumors are difficult to analyze this way. Glioblastoma is one such tumor. The tumor’s location in the brain means that some biomarkers, such as circulating tumor cells, may not cross the blood-brain barrier consistently.
“Due to the tumor’s location, it has been challenging to get dynamic, real-time molecular information, which limits the ability to determine tumor progression and to match patients with the most promising new therapies,” said Shannon Stott, a researcher involved in this study.
The research team previously reported that tumor-derived extracellular vesicles, which are small lipid particles that carry molecules through the blood, may provide a suitable biomarker in characterizing glioblastomas.
In this recent study, the team developed a microfluidic device that can capture glioblastoma-derived extracellular vesicles, with high specificity, using very small blood samples, which would be useful for pediatric patients. The microfluidic channels in the device contain a cocktail of antibodies that are specific for molecules found on glioblastoma-derived extracellular vesicles, meaning the vesicles are captured as they pass through the channels.
The team optimized the device to capture up to 100 tumor-specific vesicles in just one microliter of human plasma. The vesicles can then be released from the device for molecular characterization. In human tests, the researchers were able to isolate glioblastoma-specific vesicles from all of the glioblastoma patients they assessed.
“Our device’s ability to sort tumor-specific extracellular vesicles out from the billions of extracellular vesicles carried through the bloodstream may lead to the development of much-needed diagnostic and monitoring tools for this and other hard-to-treat cancers,” said Stott. “We are excited by this early-stage data, and we look forward to scaling the technology and increasing the number of patient samples analyzed. Specifically, we are interested in exploring how these vesicles change over time in response to treatment, and we see our blood-based assay as an ideal way to explore this in brain tumor patients.”
Study in Nature Communications: Engineered nanointerfaces for microfluidic isolation and molecular profiling of tumor-specific extracellular vesicles…