Cells disseminated from primary epithelial tumors into peripheral blood, called circulating tumor cells (CTCs), can be monitored to assess metastases and to provide a surrogate marker of treatment response. Here, we demonstrate how the flexible micro spring array (FMSA) device - a novel microfluidic device that enriches CTCs by two physical parameters: size and deformability - could be used in the rational development of treatment intervention and as a method to study the fundamental biology of CTCs. Cancer cells of different origins were spiked into healthy samples of donor blood to mimic blood samples of metastatic cancer patients. This spiked human blood was filtered using the FMSA device, and the recovered cells were successfully expanded in vitro and in a novel in vivo system. A series of experiments were performed to characterize these cells and to investigate the effect of chemotherapy on the resulting cultures. As few as 20 colon cancer cells in 7.5 mL blood could be isolated with the FMSA device, expanded both in vitro and in vivo and used at 25 cells per well to obtain significant and reliable chemosensitivity data. We also show that isolating a low number of viable patient CTCs and maintaining them in culture for a few weeks is possible. The isolation of viable cancer cells from human blood using the FMSA device provides a novel and realistic means for studying the biology of viable CTCs and for testing drug efficacy on these rare cells - a hypothesis that can be tested in future clinical trials.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology