Digital Circulating Tumor Cells Quantification

Anal Chem. 2024 May 7;96(18):6881-6888. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.3c02769. Epub 2024 Apr 24.


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are an emerging but vital biomarker for cancer management. An efficient methodology for accurately quantifying CTCs remains challenging due to their rareness. Here, we develop a digital CTC detection strategy using partitioning instead of enrichment to quantify CTCs. By utilizing the characteristics of droplet microfluidics that can rapidly generate a large number of parallel independent reactors, combined with Poisson distribution, we realize the quantification of CTCs in the blood directly. The limit of detection of our digital CTCs quantification assay is five cells per 5 mL of whole blood. By simultaneously detecting multiple genetic mutations, our approach achieves highly sensitive and specific detection of CTCs in peripheral blood from NSCLC patients (AUC = 1). Our digital platform offers a potential approach and strategy for the quantification of CTCs, which could contribute to the advancement of cancer medical management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / blood
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / blood
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating* / pathology