Ex vivo identification of circulating tumor cells in peripheral blood by fluorometric “turn on” aptamer nanoparticles†
The detection of the circulating tumor cells (CTCs) detached from solid tumors has emerged as a burgeoning topic for cancer diagnosis and treatment. The conventional CTC enrichment and identification mainly rely on the specific binding of the antibodies on the capture interface of the magnetic nanoparticles with the corresponding biomarkers on the cell membranes. However, these methods could easily generate false-negative results due to the extremely low concentration of CTCs and the internal heterogeneity of the tumor cells. Herein, with the aim of selectively identifying CTCs and improving the detection accuracy in peripheral blood, we designed the fluorometric “turn on” Au nanoparticles (DHANs) with the modification of a tumor-targeted moiety, dehydroascorbic acid (DHA) and a fluorometric aptamer, which could be “switched-on” by an over-expressed intracellular protein, namely hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF 1α). This novel nanoformulated detection platform demonstrated the great capacity for visualizing various CTCs in peripheral blood with significantly improved detection efficiency and sensitivity. As a result, the nanoplatform has a great potential to be further applied for CTC detection in vitro or in vivo, which holds promise for extensive CTC studies.