Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have been shown in many studies as a possible biomarker for metastasis and may be instrumental for the spread of the disease. Despite advances in CTC capturing technologies, the low frequency of CTCs in cancer patients and the heterogeneity of the CTCs have limited the wide application of the technology in clinic. In this study, we investigated a novel microfluidic technology that uses a size- and deformability-based capture system to characterize CTCs. This unique platform not only allows flexibility in the selection of antibody markers but also segregates the CTCs in their own chambers, thus, enabling morphological, immunological and genetic characterization of each CTC at the single cell level. In this study, different breast cancer cell lines including MCF7, MDA-MB-231 and SKBR3, as well as a panel of breast cancer biomarkers were used to test the device. The technology can capture a wide range of cells with high reproducibility. The capturing efficiency of the cells is greater than 80%. In addition, the background of leukocytes is minimized because individual cells are segregated in their own chambers. The device captured both epithelial cancer cells such as MCF7 and SKBR3 and mesenchymal cells such as MDA-MB-231. Immunostaining of the captured cells on the microchannel device suggests that a panel of breast cancer biomarkers can be used to further characterize differential expression of the captured cells.
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