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Tumor Cells in Human Blood: a Novel Method of Isolation and Enrichment

Mar 6, 2014 12:00:14 PM / by Maria

Independent publication uses whole blood supplied by HemaCare to devise a novel flow cell method for rapid and robust recovery of circulating tumor cells

Human blood, in the truest sense, is a complex tissue. This tissue has a majority of hematologic cells, but also has a significant number of other types of cells, such as circulating epithelial cells. Interestingly, ~80-90% of malignant cancers are derived from epithelial tissues and there have been reports of circulating tumor cells (CTC) in blood of patients suffering from cancer, albeit in low numbers.

CTCs, though hitherto poorly studied, have a huge potential clinical significance. Malignant cancers metastasize from one tissue to another primarily through circulation in blood. Thus, it is believed that a deeper understanding of CTCs in blood can directly predict metastasis. While drawing blood offers a less invasive method in comparison to biopsy of affected tissues, there are other technical disadvantages. CTCs circulate in very low numbers and are hard to distinguish from normal cells. Winer-Jones et al., have effectively addressed these concerns in their recent study by devising and validating a novel method of high throughput CTC recovery from whole human blood supplied by HemaCare using a flow cell.


CTC enrichment from whole blood. CTC enrichment from whole blood. Image credits: J.C.B (2011). 192,373-82.d.o.i.10.1083/jcb.201010021

As CTCs circulate in low numbers in the blood, the flow cell needs to be designed to minimize handling steps, eliminate sample transfer loss, minimize non-specific binding, maximize recovery and most importantly provide easy recovery for additional analysis (Fig. 1.). LiquidBiopsyTM, a state of the art flow cell, fulfills these requirements with an automated platform employing the recent advances in magetophoresis and microfluidics. Winer-Jones et al., used this flow cell to validate a new method of specific and high-throughput recovery of CTCs from blood. Specifically, they spike whole blood samples (from normal donors) with known amounts of tumor cells such as MCF7, HCC1419 and A549. All the three tumor cells express high numbers of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) receptors and antibodies against EpCAM are attached to the magnetic particles on the flow cell. During sheath flow, the tumor cells are captured by the antibodies and are thus retained. The captured tumor cells were validated for accuracy and more importantly; the purity of these cells ensures their use in downstream applications such as PCR and Next Generation Sequencing.

We are excited to read how whole blood supplied by HemaCare has helped in design and validation of an automated platform providing high throughput recovery of CTCs. Read more about their findings and access the full article from our publication's page. Try HemaCare’s whole blood, which is collected from IRB consented healthy human volunteer donors in HemaCare's FDA-registered collection centers, yourself!


1. Winer-Jones JP, Vahidi B, Arquilevich N, Fang C, Ferguson S, Harkins D, Hill C, Klem E, Pagano PC, Peasley C, Romero J, Shartle R, Vasko RC, Strauss WM, Dempsey PW. Circulating tumor cells: clinically relevant molecular access based on a novel CTC flow cell. PLoS One (2014). d.o.i 10.1371/journal.pone.0086717

2. Yu M, Stott S, Toner M, Maheswaran S, Haber DA.  Circulating tumor cells: approaches to isolation and characterization . J. Cell Biol. (2011) 192, 373-82. d.o.i 10.1083/jcb.201010021

Topics: Assay Development, Cancer, Independent validation, Whole Blood


Written by Maria

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