detect cancer cells in circulation

Researchers have reported on the development of a new, more sensitive method to detect rare cells, such as circulating cancer cells.


A group of scientists from the Institute of Nanotechnology (INT) and Karlsruhe Nano Micro Facility (KNMF), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany, in collaboration with the University Hospital of Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), have developed a new way to detect cancer cells that may be in circulation. The scientists published their new method in the journal Nature.

The researchers set out to develop a new way to detect rare occurrences within the body. At the basis of the technology is a microarray-based platform. The microarray platform can capture single cells even when they are mixed in with large amounts of bodily fluids, such as a single cancer cell circulating through the body in the blood. In fact, the researchers chose to validate their new system by doing just that, detecting circulating cancer cells within a background of a billion blood cells.

The sample, in this case, the blood sample is injected into a microchannel that runs across the microarray chip. Any tumor cells present in the blood will bind to the prepared surface of the microarray chip. This microarray system also has the potential to be applied to the detection of other rare cells that require detection.

While the development of this detection system is still in its infancy, it has demonstrated favourable results and has the advantage of being able to be used for detection of an array of cells that are difficult to detect with currently used methods.



Brinkmann, F. et al. A Versatile Microarray Platform for Capturing Rare Cells. Sci. Rep. 5, 15342; doi: 10.1038/srep15342 (2015).






Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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