Label-free single-cell separation and imaging of cancer cells using an integrated microfluidic system

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The incidence of cancer is increasing worldwide and metastatic disease, through the spread of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), is responsible for the majority of the cancer deaths. Accurate monitoring of CTC levels in blood provides clinical information supporting therapeutic decision making, and improved methods for CTC enumeration are asked for. Microfluidics has been extensively used for this purpose but most methods require several post-separation processing steps including concentration of the sample before analysis. This induces a high risk of sample loss of the collected rare cells. Here, an integrated system is presented that efficiently eliminates this risk by integrating label-free separation with single cell arraying of the target cell population, enabling direct on-chip tumor cell identification and enumeration. Prostate cancer cells (DU145) spiked into a sample with whole blood concentration of the peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) fraction were efficiently separated and trapped at a recovery of 76.2 ± 5.9% of the cancer cells and a minute contamination of 0.12 ± 0.04% PBMCs while simultaneously enabling a 20x volumetric concentration. This constitutes a first step towards a fully integrated system for rapid label-free separation and on-chip phenotypic characterization of circulating tumor cells from peripheral venous blood in clinical practice.


External organisations
  • University of Copenhagen
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Tokyo
  • Japan Science and Technology Agency
  • Dongguk University, Seoul
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Biomedical Laboratory Science/Technology
Original languageEnglish
Article number46507
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 20
Publication categoryResearch