Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are shed from primary and metastatic tumors and disseminate into the blood. CTCs are believed to play a key role in the spread of the disease throughout the body. There has been considerable interest in analyzing these cells as a potential source of clinically actionable information relating to molecular profile of the patient’s disease.
CTCs can be accessed repeatedly and noninvasively from a simple blood draw. This provides a clinically feasible methodology for tracking longitudinal changes in disease profile that is not readily accomplished with conventional biopsy approaches.
Numerous approaches have been employed to isolate and utilize CTCs for diagnostic and discovery applications. Platforms have been described in the literature or commercially released using alternative isolation modalities such as size-based separation, affinity capture, and imaging cytometry.
A key limitation of these technologies is the ability to isolate and recover viable, intact CTCs for downstream molecular analysis. Cells that have been isolated onto antibody-coated microfluidic channels, porous filters, and glass slides often adhere tightly to the substrate, which makes it extremely difficult to remove these cells for further analysis. Other limitations such as low CTC recovery, low purity, and diminished viability have also prevented widespread use of CTCs in the laboratory and clinical environments.