New Chip Could Make Treating Metastatic Cancer Easier and Faster

Cancer spreads via circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that travel through the blood to other organs, and they are nearly impossible to track. Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a detection method that could revolutionize cancer treatment by showing how cancers metastasize and what stage they are. This could lead to earlier and more targeted treatment, beginning with a simple blood test. When a tumor starts metastasizing, it sheds its cell into the blood. An individual cell often doesn’t survive the bloodstream on its own, but clusters of cells are much more robust and can travel to other organs, effectively pushing the cancer to a metastatic state. CTCs have proven difficult to study, let alone treat. Blood contains billions of cells per milliliter, and only a handful of those cells would be CTCs in a patient with metastatic cancer. Such intense filtration has been inaccessible using conventional lab methods. Most traditional filtration is too aggressive and would break the cluster back into single cells and ruin the ability to study the effect of a cluster. “That’s what got engineers like me interested in this because we are really good at creating sensors, or small devices that actually do sensitive analysis,” said School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Fatih Sarioglu. “We started developing technologies to catch these precious cells to help manage cancer better.” 

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