Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Microscopic Traps Capture Cancer Cells

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a microscopic implantable device that lures and traps cancer cells for use in biopsies and early cancer detection. The scaffold-like device attracts cancer cells that traveling through the body. Since the device is placed right under the skin they are easily accessible and are less invasive than traditional biopsies. The team's research recently appeared in the journal Cancer Research.


microscopic cancer trap
Implantable cancer traps could provide earlier diagnosis and help monitor treatment. CREDIT: University of Michigan

“Currently, early signs of metastasis can be difficult to detect,” says co-author Jacqueline Jeruss, an associate professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at University of Michigan. “Imaging may be done once a patient experiences symptoms, but that implies the number of cancer cells may already be substantial. Improved detection methods are needed to identify metastasis at a point when targeted treatments can have a significant beneficial impact on slowing disease progression.”


From the University of Michigan article: "Biopsies of the scaffold allowed researchers to analyze 635 genes present in the captured cancer cells. From these genes, the team identified ten that could predict whether a mouse was healthy, if it had a cancer that had not begun to spread yet, or if a cancer was present and had begun to spread. They could do that all without the need for an invasive biopsy of an organ.

The gene expression obtained at the scaffold had distinct patterns relative to cells from the blood, which are obtained through a technique known as liquid biopsy. These differences highlight that the tissue in these traps provides unique information that correlates with disease progression.

The researchers have demonstrated that the synthetic scaffolds work with multiple types of cancers in mice, including pancreatic cancer. They work by luring immune cells, which, in turn, attract cancer cells."


Read more about the microscopic trap that captures cancer cells at University of Michigan

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