During cancer progression, tumors shed circulating tumor cells (CTCs) into the bloodstream. CTCs that originate from the same primary tumor can have heterogeneous phenotypes and, while some CTCs possess benign properties, others have high metastatic potential. Deconstructing the heterogeneity of CTCs is challenging and new methods are needed that can sort small numbers of cancer cells according to their phenotypic properties. Here we describe a new microfluidic approach that profiles, along two independent phenotypic axes, the behavior of heterogeneous cell subpopulations. Cancer cells are first profiled according to expression of a surface marker using a nanoparticle-enabled approach. Along the second dimension, these subsets are further separated into subpopulations corresponding to migration profiles generated in response to a chemotactic agent. We deploy this new technique and find a strong correlation between the surface expression and migration potential of CTCs present in blood from mice with xenografted tumors. This system provides an important new means to characterize functional diversity in circulating tumor cells.
Keywords: aptamers; cancer; chemotaxis; microfluidic devices; surface marker expression.
© 2017 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.