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Integrated Micro-Nano-Opto Fluidic systems for high-content diagnosis and studies of rare cancer cells

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An innovative tool for improved cancer diagnosis

An EU-funded project developed a new technology for the early characterisation of circulating tumour cells (CTCs). This should aid doctors in selecting the best possible cancer treatment.

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Approximately 13 % of deaths worldwide are as a result of cancer, and about 90 % of these cases are due to metastases and treatment failure. Metastases develop when CTCs, which travel in the blood, stop at specific organs and form new tumours. At first these new tumours are too small to detect and are called micrometastases. They often remain dormant for months, or even years, before developing into metastases. Metastases are resistant to many treatments and are often discovered too late. The CAMINEMS project aimed to develop a new tool to overcome these challenges, and brought together nine partners from five European countries. They synthesised several generations of novel magnetic micro- and nanoparticles that can be used to capture and screen CTCs. One such particle contained HER2 surface antigens, which allows for the capture of CTCs related to breast cancer. Researchers used so-called 'Ephesia' technology to assemble these magnetic particles in a high-throughput microfluidic chip. These chips are particularly effective as they are able to capture CTCs from a relatively large volume of blood. Two prototypes of the tool are in operation at different institutes. Successful validation was achieved in the characterisation of lymphoma, with 100 % agreement in 20 patients when compared to other state-of-the art methods. The capture efficiency and specificity was also shown to be superior to other technologies. This new tool will clearly allow for major advancements in the diagnosis and prognosis of various cancers. In addition, it will provide a means to study CTCs and to understand their metabolism and response to drugs.

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