Could a microchip spell the end of the invasive biopsy?
A microfluidic chip made of graphene oxide and developed at the University of Michigan appears able to snag elusive circulating tumor cells from blood and keep them viable for lab analysis.
The chip could someday soon allow doctors to diagnose cancers, offer accurate prognoses, and test treatment options on cultured cells without requiring traditional biopsies.
Targeting cells in early diagnosis
Dr. Max Wicha, director of the U-M Cancer Center, and Dr. Diane Simeone, the Lazar J. Greenfield Professor of Surgery at the U-M Medical School and director of the Translational Oncology Program, co-authored a paper on the new device appearing in Nature Nanotechnology. Simeone said:
Circulating tumor cells will play a significant role in the early diagnosis of cancer and to help us understand if treatments are working in our cancer patients by serving as a 'liquid' biopsy to assess treatment responses in real time. Studies of circulating tumor cells will also help us understand the basic biologic mechanisms by which cancer cells metastasize or spread to distant organs – the major cause of death in cancer patients.
Currently, circulating tumor cells are nearly impossible to separate from normal cells in a blood sample, accounting for fewer than one per every billion cells in an early-stage cancer patient.
The microfluidic chip uses dense "forests of molecular chains" that use an antibody to take hold of the cells. Once in its grasp, the device can also culture the cells, which allows for greater analysis and is the key to how promising the chip is for one day eliminating biopsies.
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