Using sound waves, researchers have developed a gentle, contact-free method for separating circulating tumor cells from blood samples that is fast and efficient enough for clinical use.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are small pieces of a tumor that break away and flow through the bloodstream. They contain a wealth of information about the tumor, such as its type, physical characteristics and genetic mutations that are associated with prognosis and whether certain treatments may be effective. The ability to quickly and efficiently harvest and grow these cells from a blood sample would enable “liquid biopsies” capable of providing robust diagnosis, prognosis and suggestions for treatment strategies based on individual CTC profiling.
Every year cancer claims the lives of millions of people around the world and researchers are still searching for better tools for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment,” said Tony Jun Huang, the William Bevan Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University.
“Biopsy is the gold standard technique for cancer diagnosis, but it is painful and invasive and is often not administered until late in the cancer’s development. With our circulating tumor cell separation technology, we could potentially help find out, in a non-invasive manner, whether the patient has cancer, where the cancer is located, what stage it’s in, and what drugs would work best. All from a small sample of blood drawn from the patient.”
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