Quick chip assay using locked nucleic acid modified epithelial cell adhesion molecule and nucleolin aptamers for the capture of circulating tumor cells.

PMID 26487896


The role of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in disease diagnosis, prognosis, monitoring of the therapeutic efficacy, and clinical decision making is immense and has attracted tremendous focus in the last decade. We designed and fabricated simple, flat channel microfluidic devices polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS based) functionalized with locked nucleic acid (LNA) modified aptamers (targeting epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and nucleolin expression) for quick and efficient capture of CTCs and cancer cells. With optimized flow rates (10 μl/min), it was revealed that the aptamer modified devices offered reusability for up to six times while retaining optimal capture efficiency (>90%) and specificity. High capture sensitivity (92%) and specificity (100%) was observed in whole blood samples spiked with Caco-2 cells (10-100 cells/ml). Analysis of blood samples obtained from 25 head and neck cancer patients on the EpCAM LNA aptamer functionalized chip revealed that an average count of 5 ± 3 CTCs/ml of blood were captured from 22/25 samples (88%). EpCAM intracellular domain (EpICD) immunohistochemistry on 9 oral squamous cell carcinomas showed the EpICD positivity in the tumor cells, confirming the EpCAM expression in CTCs from head and neck cancers. These microfluidic devices also maintained viability for in vitro culture and characterization. Use of LNA modified aptamers provided added benefits in terms of cost effectiveness due to increased reusability and sustainability of the devices. Our results present a robust, quick, and efficient CTC capture platform with the use of simple PDMS based devices that are easy to fabricate at low cost and have an immense potential in cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic planning.