Project: Microsystems for cancer analysis
Project duration: 2016 - 2020
Metastasis is the cause of death in 90% of cancer-related deaths. To colonize distant sites, cells detach from primary tumors and travel through the bloodstream during which time they are known as circulating tumor cells (CTC). The number of CTC present in the bloodstream is a measure for the probability of survival of the cancer patient. CTC are however very small in number (10-3-103 per ml of blood), severely complicating the enumeration process.
Extracellular vesicles (EV's) shed by CTC are more abundant. EV's are nanoscale vesicles, of which the properties reflect those of the tissue of origin and as such can be used in diagnosis. Given their submicron size, EV's are currently very difficult to detect and characterize. In this project, the technology is being developed to maximize the information that can be extracted from blood samples.
A microfluidic chip is being developed for the filtration of whole blood, the capture of CTC-derived extracelular vesicles, and the enumeration and characterization of the captured EV's. Nano-fabricated Microsieves are surface-modified for the conjugation of antibodies to selectively capture CTC-derived vesicles. The so-formed smart sieves are to allow passage of biomatter found in blood while retaining the particles of interest. Eliminating the need for extensive labwork will allow for quick adaptation of cytostatic therapy: realtime diagnostics for personalized medicine.