FAST: Size-Selective, Clog-Free Isolation of Rare Cancer Cells from Whole Blood at a Liquid–Liquid Interface
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have great potential to provide minimally invasive ways for the early detection of cancer metastasis and for the response monitoring of various cancer treatments. Despite the clinical importance and progress of CTC-based cancer diagnostics, most of the current methods of enriching CTCs are difficult to implement in general hospital settings due to complex and time-consuming protocols. Among existing technologies, size-based isolation methods provide antibody-independent, relatively simple, and high throughput protocols. However, the clogging issues and lower than desired recovery rates and purity are the key challenges. In this work, inspired by antifouling membranes with liquid-filled pores in nature, clog-free, highly sensitive (95.9 +/- 3.1% recovery rate), selective (>2.5 log depletion of white blood cells), rapid (>3 mL/min), and label-free isolation of viable CTCs from whole blood without prior sample treatment is achieved using a stand-alone lab-on-a-disc system equipped with fluid-assisted separation technology (FAST). Numerical simulation and experiments show that this method provides uniform, clog-free, ultrafast cell enrichment with pressure drops much less than in conventional size-based filtration, at 1 kPa. We demonstrate the clinical utility of the point-of-care detection of CTCs with samples taken from 142 patients suffering from breast, stomach, or lung cancer.
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