Slanted spiral microfluidics for the ultra-fast, label-free isolation of circulating tumor cells†
The enumeration and characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), found in the peripheral blood of cancer patients, provide a potentially accessible source for cancer diagnosis and prognosis. This work reports on a novel spiral microfluidic device with a trapezoidal cross-section for ultra-fast, label-free enrichment of CTCs from clinically relevant blood volumes. The technique utilizes the inherent Dean vortex flows present in curvilinear microchannels under continuous flow, along with inertial lift forces which focus larger CTCs against the inner wall. Using a trapezoidal cross-section as opposed to a traditional rectangular cross-section, the position of the Dean vortex core can be altered to achieve separation. Smaller hematologic components are trapped in the Dean vortices skewed towards the outer channel walls and eventually removed at the outer outlet, while the larger CTCs equilibrate near the inner channel wall and are collected from the inner outlet. By using a single spiral microchannel with one inlet and two outlets, we have successfully isolated and recovered more than 80% of the tested cancer cell line cells (MCF-7, T24 and MDA-MB-231) spiked in 7.5 mL of blood within 8 min with extremely high purity (400–680 WBCs mL−1; ∼4 log depletion of WBCs). Putative CTCs were detected and isolated from 100% of the patient samples (n = 10) with advanced stage metastatic breast and lung cancer using standard biomarkers (CK, CD45 and DAPI) with the frequencies ranging from 3–125 CTCs mL−1. We expect this simple and elegant approach can surmount the shortcomings of traditional affinity-based CTC isolation techniques as well as enable fundamental studies on CTCs to guide treatment and enhance patient care.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Detection Technologies for Life Science and Chemistry and Circulating Tumor Cells