Rapid isolation of circulating cancer associated fibroblasts by acoustic microstreaming for assessing metastatic propensity of breast cancer patients†
We demonstrate a label free and high-throughput microbubble-based acoustic microstreaming technique to isolate rare circulating cells such as circulating cancer associated fibroblasts (cCAFs) in addition to circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and immune cells (i.e. leukocytes) from clinically diagnosed patients with a capture efficiency of 94% while preserving cell functional integrity within 8 minutes. The microfluidic device is self-pumping and was optimized to increase flow rate and achieve near perfect capturing of rare cells enabled by having a trapping capacity above the acoustic vortex saturation concentration threshold. Our approach enables rapid isolation of CTCs, cCAFs and their associated clusters from blood samples of cancer patients at different stages. By examining the combined role of cCAFs and CTCs in early cancer onset and metastasis progression, the device accurately diagnoses both cancer and the metastatic propensity of breast cancer patients. This was confirmed by flow cytometry where we observed that metastatic breast cancer blood samples had significantly higher percentage of exhausted CD8+ T cells expressing programmed cell death protein 1 (PD1), higher number of CD4+ T regulatory cells and T helper cells. We show for the first time that our lateral cavity acoustic transducers (LCATs)-based approach can thus be developed into a metastatic propensity assay for clinical usage by elucidating cancer immunological responses and the complex relationships between CTCs and its companion tumor microenvironment.