Viable tumour-derived epithelial cells (also known as circulating tumour cells or CTCs) have been identified in the blood of cancer patients, and the hope is that these CTCs will enable physicians to characterize and monitor certain kinds of cancer in a non-invasive manner. A paper published in Nature describes the development of a unique microfluidic platform (the 'CTC-chip') that can efficiently and selectively separate CTCs from peripheral blood samples.
Mehmet Toner and colleagues have used the device to identify CTCs successfully in the peripheral blood of patients with metastatic lung, prostate, pancreas, breast and colon cancer, and they have shown that they can use the CTC-chip to monitor an individual's response to anti-cancer therapy. The approach seems to isolate more viable CTCs - and is simpler - than other methods that have been used to isolate these rare cells, so the hope is that this device could be used in clinical settings to diagnose cancer patients rapidly and monitor them while they are undergoing treatment.
Mehmet Toner (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza