A team of researchers led by the University of California San Diego has created a device that measures how "sticky" cancer cells are, which could improve prognostic evaluation of patient tumors. The device is built with a microfluidic chamber that sorts cells by their physical ability to adhere to their environment.
Researchers found that weakly adherent cells migrated and invaded other tissues more than the strongly adherent cells from the same tumor. Also, the genes that identify these weakly adherent cells make patients' tumors five times more likely to reoccur within five years.
The team reported their findings in a study published in Cancer Research .
Their work addresses a longstanding problem in the field of cancer research: it has been difficult to find biological markers to universally identify and select the most aggressive cells in tumors. This study may provide a much-needed physical marker that identifies highly metastatic cells within a heterogeneous tumor cell population.
This new device could be the first step to better assess how likely tumor recurrence is. Patients with few of these aggressive cells lying dormant in their surrounding tissue may be less likely to see a tumor reoccur 5, 10, or 20 years later." Adam Engler, bioengineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and senior author of the study
Engler noted that by knowing a patient's risk, follow-up treatments could be better tailored to the individual.
The device that Engler's team built consists of a microfluidic chamber coated with an adhesive protein. Cancer cells are placed in the chamber and after they adhere, a fluid is pushed through to detach cells. The faster the fluid moves, the higher the shear stress that the cells experience. The team can isolate cells that detach at specific shear stresses and analyze them. Cells collected at lower shear stress are weakly adherent, while those collected at higher shear stresses are strongly adherent. Related Stories
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