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Capturing circulating cancer cells could provide insights into how disease spreads
Date:12/11/2012

and his engineering colleagues teamed up with U-M senior cancer researcher and breast cancer clinician Dr. Sofia Merajver and her team. This multidisciplinary group believes that while the device could one day improve cancer diagnosis and prognosis, its first uses would be for researchers to isolate live circulating tumor cells from blood specimens and study their biological and physical properties.

"Understanding the physical behavior and nature of these circulating tumor cells will certainly help us understand better one of the most difficult questions in cancer biologythe metastatic cascade, that is, how the disease spreads," Fu said. "Our system could provide an efficient and powerful way to capture the live circulating tumor cells and use them as a surrogate to study the metastatic process."

But capturing them, as challenging as it has proven to be, is only the beginning, said Merajver, who has spent the last 18 years studying cell signaling and the physical properties of highly aggressive cancer cells.

"The application of integrative biology is necessary to put together the story of how these cells behave in time to achieve successful metastases and thereby discover the routes to suppressing this deadly development," Merajver said. "Our collaboration with the Fu lab exemplifies the innovation needed for the war against cancerteam science from the lab all the way to the clinic."

In their experiments, the researchers used a standard and inexpensive microfabrication technique called "reactive ion etching" to roughen glass slides with a nanoscale resolution. Then, they spiked different blood samples with cancer cells derived from human breast, cervical and prostate tissues. When they poured the samples over the glass plates, the nanorough glass surfaces captured an average of 88 percent to 95 percent of the cancer cells.

Fu suggests why.

"Blood cells are intrinsically floating," Fu said. "Cancer cells includi
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Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-7087
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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