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Circulating Tumor Cells or CTCs can be found in the blood of patients with primary tumor. These cells are extraordinarily rare and their detection presents a major challenge. Through a collaboration between bioengineers, molecular biologists and clinicians, we have developed a novel and radically different approach to detect and isolate CTCs, taking advantage of microscopic fluid dynamics to construct a “chip” with 100 times greater sensitivity than existing technologies. The CTC-Chip offers a unique opportunity for the detection of tumor cells from patients with early stage cancer, the ability to genetically characterize tumor cells without needing an invasive biopsy, and determine responsiveness to the new generation targeted cancer drugs. It also offers the opportunity to study “cancer stem cells” or “metastasis precursors”, thought to be at the origin of cancer spread via the bloodstream, to define their molecular vulnerabilities and help design new therapies to prevent cancer metastasis. The goal of our center is to transform the CTC-Chip from the existing manual prototype to a robust technology that will allow detailed studies across multiple different types of cancer.
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