Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are a popular topic in cancer research because they can be obtained by liquid biopsy, a minimally invasive procedure with more sample accessibility than tissue biopsy, to monitor a patient's condition. Over the past decades, CTC research has covered a wide variety of topics such as enumeration, profiling, and correlation between CTC number and patient overall survival. It is important to isolate and enrich CTCs before performing CTC analysis because CTCs in the blood stream are very rare (0-10 CTCs/mL of blood). Among the various approaches to separating CTCs, here, we review the research trends in the isolation and analysis of CTCs using microfluidics. Microfluidics provides many attractive advantages for CTC studies such as continuous sample processing to reduce target cell loss and easy integration of various functions into a chip, making "do-everything-on-a-chip" possible. However, tumor cells obtained from different sites within a tumor exhibit heterogenetic features. Thus, heterogeneous CTC profiling should be conducted at a single-cell level after isolation to guide the optimal therapeutic path. We describe the studies on single-CTC analysis based on microfluidic devices. Additionally, as a critical concern in CTC studies, we explain the use of CTCs in cancer research, despite their rarity and heterogeneity, compared with other currently emerging circulating biomarkers, including exosomes and cell-free DNA (cfDNA). Finally, the commercialization of products for CTC separation and analysis is discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Control and Systems Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering