The Role of Dielectrophoresis for Cancer Diagnosis and Prognosis

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Dec 31;14(1):198. doi: 10.3390/cancers14010198.


Liquid biopsy is emerging as a potential diagnostic tool for prostate cancer (PC) prognosis and diagnosis. Unfortunately, most circulating tumor cells (CTC) technologies, such as AdnaTest or Cellsearch®, critically rely on the epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) marker, limiting the possibility of detecting cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) and mesenchymal-like cells (EMT-CTCs) that are present during PC progression. In this context, dielectrophoresis (DEP) is an epCAM independent, label-free enrichment system that separates rare cells simply on the basis of their specific electrical properties. As compared to other technologies, DEP may represent a superior technique in terms of running costs, cell yield and specificity. However, because of its higher complexity, it still requires further technical as well as clinical development. DEP can be improved by the use of microfluid, nanostructured materials and fluoro-imaging to increase its potential applications. In the context of cancer, the usefulness of DEP lies in its capacity to detect CTCs in the bloodstream in their epithelial, mesenchymal, or epithelial-mesenchymal phenotype forms, which should be taken into account when choosing CTC enrichment and analysis methods for PC prognosis and diagnosis.

Keywords: circulating tumor cells; detection; dielectrophoresis; prognosis; prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Review