New chip is said to improve cancer treatment

Medical Devices

A new chip that shows how cancers metastasise and what stage they are at has been developed by US researchers to improve cancer treatment.

Cancer spreads through circulating tumour cells (CTCs), which are impossible to track through the blood to other organs. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers believe that, beginning with a simple blood test, this detection method could result in earlier and more targeted treatment.

“A new chip that shows how cancers metastasise and what stage they are at has been developed to improve cancer treatment.“

When a tumour begins to metastasise, it sheds its cell into the blood. Despite an individual cell not surviving in the bloodstream on its own, however, clusters of cells are more able to travel to other organs and are more robust, and the cancer is effectively pushed to a metastatic state.

CTCs are challenging to study and treat, blood contains billions of cells per millimetre, and only a small number of those could be CTCs in a patient with metastatic cancer. Conventional lab methods do not allow such intense filtration; it is too aggressive and would break the cluster up, effectively ruining the ability to study the effect of a cluster.

The chip is called the Cluster-Well; it combines the precision of microfluidic chips with the efficiency of membrane filtration to find CTC clusters. Microfluidic chips can accurately locate each cell in a blood sample using micron-sized features and determine whether it is cancerous.

Associate professor at Georgia’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Fatih Sarioglu, has stated, “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 chip’s innovative design means that CTC clusters are filtered in microwells and can later be accessed for further analysis. Even one CTC can contain information critical for managing the disease, such as data on the patient and their specific cancer.

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