Tumor Cell Capture

As a promising alternative, microfluidic technology has attracted great attention in the field of tumor cell capture. It can create devices that are less than or equal to the cell length scale, and can accurately capture and process at the individual cell level. These technologies also provide precise control of fluid flow, which can greatly promote affinity reactions and physical separation.

Microfluidics technology enables microchips or biochips to be manufactured for various applications. It opens up new windows of opportunity for many fields including basic biology, chemical research, and clinical health.

Microfluidic Liquid Biopsy Separation of Circulating Tumor Cells

The use of microfluidic chips to separate circulating tumor cells (CTCs) by label-free and label-dependent liquid biopsy is of great significance for diagnosis and liquid biopsy.

Tumor Cell Capture

Figure.1 Role of CTCs in tumor metastasis. (Cho H, et al. 2018)

Alfa Chemistry can integrate CTCs capture and next analysis on the microfluidic chip to minimize the processing of intermediate samples and shorten the processing time. Our microfluidic chips for separating circulating tumor cells are divided into label-free and label-dependent chips.

Label-free chips usually made of PDMS rely on the inherent differences of CTCs, such as the size or density of separating them. For the chip that relies on labeling, we design to use its epithelial markers to label the cells first and then capture them according to the labeling method.

Label-free Methods for Capturing Circulating Tumor Cells

The label-free microfluidic technology takes advantage of the difference between CTCs and other cells to separate them and perform the liquid biopsy. The physical characteristics of CTCs include: usually larger in size than blood cells; higher density; and higher charges.

The label-free separation of CTCs has a lot in common with microfluidic cell sorting. The label-free CTCs separation chip may use one or more of the above features for cell separation.

  • Filtering: In filtering, the topographic features of the microchannel will filter CTCs.
  • Acoustic electrophoresis: Sound waves can exert force on the cells in the microfluidic channel. The strength of the cell is related to its nature. Acoustic electrophoresis uses this concept to distinguish cells and separate CTCs.
  • Kinetics: Different cells in the electric field may behave differently. This different behavior can be customized to isolate the CTC.

Click here to find more detailed information about microfluidic cell sorting.

Label-dependant Methods for Capturing Circulating Tumor Cells

The epithelial surface markers of CTCs can be used as biomarkers, including EpCAM, EGFR, HER2 and MUC1.

  • Immunofluorescence: These biochips use antibodies and fluorescent tags to label CTCs and classify them based on fluorescent signals.
  • Immunomagnetic: This method is very common, such as labeling CTCs with magnetic beads, and then using a magnet to pull them to a specific area on the chip.
  • Immunization: This method uses one or more antibodies to capture CTCs. The sample needs to be mixed thoroughly to ensure that CTCs have the opportunity to contact the antibody.
Tumor Cell Capture

What Can Alfa Chemistry Do for You?

By using microfluidic technology, our professional R&D team has helped customers successfully design and develop a variety of microfluidic chips for tumor cell capture. If you need to buy a customized microfluidic chip to separate CTCs, please feel free to contact Alfa Chemistry!

Besides, we can also characterize CTCs to identify the source and extract genetic data. Common methods are PCR, ELISA, and cytometry.


  • Cho H, et al. (2018). "Microfluidic Technologies for Circulating Tumor Cell Isolation."Analyst. 143: 2936-2970.

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