There is an unmet clinical need to extract living circulating tumor cells (CTCs) for functional studies and in vitro expansion to enable drug testing and predict responses to therapy in metastatic cancer. Here, we present a novel two-step acoustophoresis (A2) method for isolation of unfixed, viable cancer cells from red blood cell (RBC) lysed whole blood. The A2 method uses an initial acoustofluidic preseparation step to separate cells based on their acoustic mobility. This acoustofluidic step enriches viable cancer cells in a central outlet, but a significant number of white blood cells (WBCs) remain in the central outlet fraction due to overlapping acoustophysical properties of these viable cells. A subsequent purging step was employed to remove contaminating WBCs through negative selection acoustophoresis with anti-CD45-functionalized negative acoustic contrast particles. We processed 1 mL samples of 1:1 diluted RBC lysed whole blood mixed with 10 000 DU145 cells through the A2 method. Additional experiments were performed using 1000 DU145 cells spiked into 1.5 × 106 WBCs in 1 mL of buffer to further elucidate the dynamic range of the method. Using samples with 10 000 DU145 cells, we obtained 459 ± 188-fold depletion of WBC and 42% recovery of viable cancer cells. Based on spiked samples with 1000 DU145 cells, our cancer cell recovery was 28% with 247 ± 156-fold WBC depletion corresponding to a depletion efficacy of ≥99.5%. The novel A2 method provides extensive elimination of WBCs combined with the gentle recovery of viable cancer cells suitable for downstream functional analyses and in vitro culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17076-17085
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number51
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 28

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Cancer and Oncology

Free keywords

  • Acoustics
  • Cell Separation
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Leukocytes
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating


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