According to a research by experts at the Georgia Institute of Technology, published in Nature Communications, a new detection method could help in earlier and faster treatment of cancer with more targeted treatment, starting with just a simple blood test. Cancer spreads and grows through circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that are present in the blood and travel to other organs of the body, but are highly impossible to track. This research can prove to revolutionize the treatment of cancer by showcasing how cancers metastasize and at what stage they are.
When a tumor goes through metastasis, it divides its cell into the blood. A single cell is usually not able to survive the blood flow on its own, but groups of cells are much stronger and can easily travel to other organs of the body, making the cancer turn into a metastatic state. CTCs have are extremely hard to study, treatment is a farfetched goal. Most of the conventional methods of filtration are too tough and end up bursting the cluster back into individual cells and affecting its power to study the impact of a cluster.
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Fatih Sarioglu, said, "That’s what got engineers like me interested in this because we are really good at creating sensors, or small devices that actually do sensitive analysis." They further added, "We started developing technologies to catch these precious cells to help manage cancer better." Recently, Sarioglu had showcased the research in "High Throughput, Label-free Isolation of Circulating Tumor Cell Clusters in Meshed Microwells."
Cluster-Well chip for cancer treatment
The research team's new chip is named Cluster-Well. As per the researchers, it is an effective combination of precised microfluidic chips with the ability of membrane filtration to detect CTCs. With the help of micron-sized benefits, microfluidic chips can easily identify every cell in a blood sample and tell if it is a cancerous cell. Sarioglu said in a statement, "Microfluidic chips give you more control as a designer to actually ask whatever question that you want to ask those cells. It increases the precision and sensitivity, which is what you need for an application like this because you want to find that single cell out of many blood cells."
The team said that the chip is initially made using silicon similar to a central processing unit (CPU) in a computer, however, it is later transferred to polymers to make it more accessible, pocket friendly, and single-use, while also maintaining the delicacy and detailing.
Sarioglu said, "We really created only the traps that we need to have for recognising the clusters with the microfluidic chip, and the rest is just a standard filter holder." The statement further added, "Compared to a conventional microfluidic chip, you will get a much more practical assay with orders of magnitude improvement in throughput and a higher sensitivity."