Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Miniature Chip Can Find Cancer Cells In The Blood

Medical Advances

Metastasis. A process where cancer cells invade lymph nodes and blood vessels near a tumour and spread to other parts of the body.
Photo Credit & Source: National Cancer Institute

An article, by Paul Gabrielsen, in Science says that two biomedical engineers—Mehmet Toner and Emre Ozkumur—both working at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, have designed and developed a miniature silicon chip, the article says, "the size of a microscope slide etched with microchannels each no wider than a hair." It promises to detect what are called circulating tumor cells (CTCs), that is, cancer cells that have entered the bloodstream.

Gabrielsen writes:
 Toner pumped samples of whole blood through the channels, which were coated with an antibody designed to trap any cancer cell that carries a common surface protein, much as flypaper snags pesky insects. But cancer cells without that protein, such as melanoma (a type of skin cancer), slid past undetected.
The new device gets around that limitation. Called the CTC-iChip system (the "i" is for "inertial focusing"), it targets blood cells instead of cancer cells. Sorting by cell size, the first chip skims off small red blood cells and platelets, letting only CTCs and white blood cells flow past. Then, a second chip winds the cells through curving channels, channeling the remaining cells into a single-file line. Magnetic beads the size of a bacterium attach to specific surface proteins on white blood cells, and a magnetic field nudges these cells out of the stream of CTCs. That leaves just the CTCs, which can be collected in a vial and individually analyzed by conventional lab methods.
As is the case with all diseases, and especially cancer, early detection leads to greater probability of recovery and survival for patients. When cancer cells enter the bloodstream, they can migrate anywhere in the body and spread the reach of cancer in a process called metastasis; this migration often leads to a later-stage cancer (Stage IV), which is more difficult to treat, especially if it has spread to a major organ.

Even so, as the article puts it: "Early CTC detection allows doctors to begin antimetastatic treatments, he {Ozkumur] says, potentially slowing or stopping cancer's final, fatal onslaught."

Early Detection: As Science says: "A cancer cell (left) can cause havoc if it enters the bloodstream. Researchers use micro-scale instruments (right) to hunt for cancer cells in blood samples."
Image Credits: Emre Ozkumur (L); Berkin Cilingiroglu/ (R); Courtesy of Emre Ozkumur
Source: Science

You can read the rest of the article at [ScienceMag]

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