Capturing Cancer Cells From the Blood

Guest_Jim_* - November 14, 2012 05:06PM in Science & Technology

With the number of people affected by cancer, directly or indirectly, it is not surprising that it is heavily researched by many institutions. The work those places are doing is quickly leading to a new approach to treating cancer by allowing treatment to be personalized to the patient and the disease. That work includes what researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and MIT have recently done which gives a way to capture cancer cells for analysis.

There are a prodigious amount of cancers that one can suffer from, so identifying which is ailing the patient is critical to treating them effectively. To further that goal the researchers have used DNA to mimic the behavior of some sea creatures like jellyfish. These creatures use long tentacles to capture tiny pieces of food that float by in the water. To emulate this the researchers grew long strands of DNA that target proteins on cancer cells, so as the patient's blood flows through the device the DNA grabs onto the cancer cells. After that, one can break up the DNA to free the intact cancer cells, which can then be cultured for study.

The fact that this device works with just a patient's blood is very important as that means it can be done quickly and is non-invasive, compared to other methods. This means the cells could be easily captured and analyzed before and after chemotherapy, so the effects of the chemicals can be observed, and then modified if needed to best serve the patient.