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Capturing cancer: Liquid biopsy could improve cancer diagnosis and treatment

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Posted October 1, 2013

A microfluidic chip developed at the University of Michigan is among the best at capturing elusive circulating tumor cells from blood—and it can support the cells’ growth for further analysis.

The device, believed to be the first to pair these functions, uses the advanced electronics material graphene oxide. In clinics, such a device could one day help doctors diagnose cancers, give more accurate prognoses and test treatment options on cultured cells without subjecting patients to traditional biopsies.

“If we can get these technologies to work, it will advance new cancer drugs and revolutionize the treatment of cancer patients,” said Dr. Max Wicha, director of the U-M Cancer Center and co-author of a paper on the new device, published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology.

“Circulating tumor cells will play a significant role in the early diagnosis of cancer and to help us understand if treatments are working in our cancer patients by serving as a ‘liquid’ biopsy to assess treatment responses in real time,” said co-author Dr. Diane Simeone, the Lazar J. Greenfield Professor of Surgery at the U-M Medical School and director of the Translational Oncology Program.

“Studies of circulating tumor cells will also help us understand the basic biologic mechanisms by which cancer cells metastasize or spread to distant organs—the major cause of death in cancer patients.”

Yet these cells aren’t living up to their promise in medicine because they are so difficult to separate from a blood sample, the researchers say. In the blood of early-stage cancer patients, they account for less than one in every billion cells, so catching them is tougher than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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