Size-matching hierarchical micropillar arrays for detecting circulating tumor cells in breast cancer patients’ whole blood†
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are important markers for cancer diagnosis and treatment, but it is still a challenge to recognize and isolate CTCs because they are very rare in the blood. To selectively recognize CTCs and improve the capture efficiency, micro/nanostructured substrates have been fabricated for this application; however the size of CTCs is often ignored in designing and engineering micro/nanostructured substrates. Herein, a spiky polymer micropillar array is fabricated for capturing CTCs with high efficiency. The surface of the micropillar is cactus-like, and is composed of nanospikes. This hierarchical polymer array is designed according to the size of CTCs, which allows for more interactions of the CTCs with the array by setting the size of gaps among the micropillars to match with the CTCs. This polymer array is created by molding on an ordered silicon array, and then it is coated with an antiepithelial cell adhesion molecule antibody (anti-EpCAM). After co-culture with MCF-7 cells for 45 min, the capture efficiency of this array for CTCs is up to 91% ± 2%. Moreover, the anti-EpCAM modified polymer micropillar arrays present an excellent capacity to isolate CTCs from the whole blood samples of breast cancer patients. This study may provide a new concept for capturing target cells by designing and engineering micro/nanostructured substrates according to the size of target cells.