Simple microfluidic device diagnoses cancer with 93% accuracy

A team of scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Queensland University of Technology in Australia presented a prototype of a new cancer detector. It looks for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in human blood, the primary sign of tumor activity. And just a drop of patient's blood is enough for him to work.

The problem with finding CSCs is that their blood levels are negligible. For example, in a typical sample of 7.5 milliliters there will be 30-40 billion blood cells and only 10 CTCs. Truly, a needle in a haystack - so, as the saying goes, a radical search method is needed. The researchers decided to move away from routine biomarker testing and focus on cell size.

CTCs are, on average, larger than normal blood cells, so scientists have created a microfluidic filter that separates objects in liquid by size. In the first experiments, 93% of 50 CTC units were found in a 5 ml sample. Subsequently, the number of CTCs was reduced to 10, and the detector detected 83% of them. Studies of the blood of cancer patients have shown the reliability of the technology in 9 out of 10 cases, but questions remain about the sample size and the magnitude of the measurement error.

The first successes should not be dazzling, because they used deliberately large CTCs for lung cancer. In other forms of cancer, their sizes vary, so the technology needs to be improved. But at least now cancer researchers have a base. And nothing prevents you from combining a simple microfluidic filter with more advanced diagnostic systems to achieve the perfect result.