Topic Abstract: Microfluidic platforms for the detection of rare cells in triple-negative breast cancer and sarcomas

Minh-Chau Le

Graduate Student, Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Presentation Title: Microfluidic Platforms to Detect Tumors

Despite significant leaps in early diagnostics and treatment methods, malignant cancer remains a leading cause of death both in the U.S. and worldwide. In the last two decades, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood and disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) in the bone marrow (BM) have been hypothesized as precursors of recurrent disease and metastasis. Since then, these rare cells have been hailed as potential cancer biomarkers with promising clinical utility. In this work, we focus on the application of microfluidics in the detection and analysis of these rare cells in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and sarcomas. Firstly, we applied microfluidics to the enrichment of TNBC cells in the BM. A major cause for the high failure rate of TNBC treatment is the presence of rare treatment resisting DTCs in the BM. Therefore, accessing these rare cells for genomic sequencing and identification of therapeutics becomes crucial. Using an immunoaffinity-based microfluidic platform, we demonstrated high capture efficiency for TNBC cells in buffer and BM aspirates. Additionally, we showcased the highly efficient release of these captured cells from the microfluidic devices while preserving the cellular integrity needed for downstream analyses. Secondly, we ventured into the lesser-known field of sarcomas CTCs. While CTCs from carcinomas (e.g., breast cancer, colorectal cancer) have long been studied, efforts toward understanding the presence of such biomarkers in sarcomas (e.g., bone and soft tissue sarcomas) are severely lacking. Using a microfluidic device capable of both immunoaffinity-based and size-based capture mechanisms, we detected CTCs from a wide variety of sarcoma subtypes. In summary, our work presents the efforts in exploiting microfluidics for capturing and analyzing rare CTCs and DTCs in TNBC and sarcomas. The many advantages of microfluidics render them a promising tool for studying various cancer biomarkers and their clinical utility.

Core Standards

SC.912.L.16.10 Evaluate the impact of biotechnology on the individual, society and the environment, including medical and ethical issues

SC.912.L.16.8 Explain the relationship between mutation, cell cycle, and uncontrolled cell growth potentially resulting in cancer.

SC.912.L.14.12 Describe the anatomy and histology of bone tissue.

SC.912.L.14.6 Explain the significance of genetic factors, environmental factors, and pathogenic agents to health from the perspectives of both individual and public health.

SC.912.P.8.2 Differentiate between physical and chemical properties and physical and chemical changes of matter.

SC.912.N.2.4 Explain that scientific knowledge is both durable and robust and open to change. Scientific knowledge can change because it is often examined and re-examined by new investigations and scientific argumentation. Because of these frequent examinations, scientific knowledge becomes stronger, leading to its durability.

SC.912.N.2.5 Describe instances in which scientists’ varied backgrounds, talents, interests, and goals influence the inferences and thus the explanations that they make about observations of natural phenomena and describe that competing interpretations (explanations) of scientists are a strength of science as they are a source of new, testable ideas that have the potential to add new evidence to support one or another of the explanations.

SC.912.N.1.6 Describe how scientific inferences are drawn from scientific observations and provide examples from the content being studied.

SC.912.N.1.3 Recognize that the strength or usefulness of a scientific claim is evaluated through scientific argumentation, which depends on critical and logical thinking, and the active consideration of alternative scientific explanations to explain the data presented.