PI: Yaling Liu
University: Lehigh University
This project aims to use wavy-herringbone (wavy-HB) structured microfluidic device to effectively and selectively capture and release circulating tumor cells (CTCs) directly from cancer patient blood samples by using immunoaffinity and magnetic force. As a member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, LVHN Cancer Institute offers groundbreaking, lifesaving cancer care and breakthrough clinical research in the Lehigh Valley.

Current microfluidic-based CTC isolation methods are lack of both sensitivity and selectivity. There is a need to optimize these two important parameters to more accurately precast patient cancer stages, monitor therapeutic efficacy, and guide drug dosage. We have collaborated with LVHN Cancer Institute to preliminarily perform CTC isolation from renal cell carcinoma and melanoma patient blood by using our wavy-HB structured microfluidic device, and results are rather positive. Doctor Nair from LVHN would like to use our microfluidic device in a clinical trial for monitoring progression of tumor though CTCs measurement. A total of 30 melanoma and 20 renal cancer phase 2 patients will be involved in this project, and the clinical trial protocol has been approved by LVHN. The wavy-HB structure is demonstrated to have excellent turbulence generation ability in a microfluidic device, which dramatically enhances the possibility of particle/cell collision to device walls. Specific antibody coated magnetic particles (MPs) can be immobilized in the microfluidic device by a strong magnet, and after flowing samples, the MPs with captured cells can also be flushed out and collected, simply by releasing the device off the magnet.

In this proposed project period, we plan to use the developed microfluidic device to optimize the sensitivity and selectivity on CTC isolation directly from patient blood by choosing proper antibodies, tuning experiment setups, and optimizing wavy-HB structure fabrication methods. The project will also incorporate post-analyses of isolated CTCs, including CTC cluster formation, genetic sequencing, and patient treatment tracking. Once our microfluidic device is proved to have sensitivity and selectivity on CTC isolation directly from patient blood, this cost-effective tool can help LVHN Cancer Institute and the whole oncology research and pharmaceutical industry community in a lot of manners, such as CTCs concentration monitoring, therapeutic guidance and drug dosage choice, as well as further study of tumors, such as drug screening and tumor mutation studies.