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Microfluidic chip for graduated magnetic separation of circulating tumor cells by their epithelial cell adhesion molecule expression and magnetic nanoparticle binding

P. Stephen Williams, Lee R. Moore, Powrnima Joshi, Mark Goodin, Maciej Zborowski, Aaron Fleischman
Journal of chromatography 2021 v.1637 pp. 461823
biopsy, blood flow, cancer therapy, chromatography, epithelial cell adhesion molecule, magnetic fields, magnetic separation, metastasis, neoplasms, organ-on-a-chip, prognosis, vanadium
The enumeration of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the peripheral bloodstream of metastatic cancer patients has contributed to improvements in prognosis and therapeutics. There have been numerous approaches to capture and counting of CTCs. However, CTCs have potential information beyond simple enumeration and hold promise as a liquid biopsy for cancer and a pathway for personalized cancer therapy by detecting the subset of CTCs having the highest metastatic potential. There is evidence that epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) expression level distinguishes these highly metastatic CTCs. The few previous approaches to selective CTC capture according to EpCAM expression level are reviewed. A new two-stage microfluidic device for separation, enrichment and release of CTCs into subpopulations sorted by EpCAM expression level is presented here. It relies upon immunospecific magnetic nanoparticle labeling of CTCs followed by their field- and flow-based separation in the first stage and capture as discrete subpopulations in the second stage. To fine tune the separation, the magnetic field profile across the first stage microfluidic channel may be modified by bonding small Vanadium Permendur strips to its outer walls. Mathematical modeling of magnetic fields and fluid flows supports the soundness of the design.