Commercial-automated platform for isolating circulating tumor cells developed

Researchers from Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (IL, USA) have developed a novel commercial-automated platform for isolating circulating tumor cells (CTCs), termed the VTX-1 Liquid Biopsy System. The findings were published recently in SLAS Technology.

The platform, which is designed to automate the isolation of clinically relevant CTC populations, represents the transition from a cutting-edge microfluidic innovation in the lab to a commercial-automated system for isolating CTCs directly from whole blood.

In the process of transitioning the technology into a commercial product, the researchers made several improvements including replacing flexible polydimethylsiloxane microfluidic chips with rigid poly(methyl methacrylate) chips. By utilizing this material, the team observed a 2.2-fold increase in cell recovery.

The researchers also automated the optimization of isolation protocols and the fluid processing in the chip, which further improved cancer cell recovery by nearly 1.4-fold with a 2.8-fold decrease in contaminating white blood cells and overall improved reproducibility.

The VTX-1’s performance was further tested with three different spiked breast or lung cancer cell lines, with 69.0% to 79.5% cell recovery. The platform achieved a purity as low as <100 white blood cells per mL of blood processed.

In the paper, the authors highlight several advantages of their system; not only is the platform flexible in its operating modes but the captured cells are also unaltered by labels or reagents, which provides direct access to the patient’s intact cancer biology.

Additionally, the team demonstrated that cancer cells captured by the VTX-1 maintained their capacity to form colonies and 3D spheroids that invade into a surrounding matrix. Overall, the team state that their platform: “…captures clinically relevant samples of viable CTCs with high purity and makes them available for immediate analysis and characterization.”

Studies exploring CTC isolation with the VTX-1 from patient samples with various types of cancers at different stages are in progress.

Sources: Lemaire CA, Lui SZ, Wilkerson CL et al. Fast and label-free isolation of circulating tumor cells from blood: from a research microfluidic platform to an automated fluidic instrument, VTX-1 liquid biopsy system SLAS Technology 23(1) 16–29 (2018); Eureka alert press release