A team of Korean researchers has developed a technology to measure circulating tumor cells and determine whether or not a human body has cancer cells. The team led by professor Han Ki-ho at the Nano Convergence Engineering Division at Inje University announced on Nov. 10 that they developed a cell separation technology that can separate living circulating tumor cells and a technology to precisely measure the separated cells via an electric method.
This technology can measure all circulating tumor cells within ten minutes, the team emphasized. The research team used graphene, a highly conductive material that can easily combine with circulating tumor cells in a body. They observed graphene selectively combining with rare circulating tumor cells and slashing their surface resistance. The team explained that when the electric conductivity of cancer cells was weakened by graphene, they could be measured when they passed between two electrodes. The team can estimate the number of cancer cells with low electric resistance with 94 percent accuracy.
Since this technology is able to select circulating tumor cells via an electric method, it is expected that this technological breakthrough will be a core technology for the development of a portable cancer diagnosis device. They also forecast that it will be possible to genetically analyze cancers by putting separated circulating tumor cells to good use, and, therefore, diagnose cancers at the molecular level in the early stages.
The team said that current commercial cancer diagnosis methods based on the separation of circulating tumor cells can cost a patient 1 million won (US$865), and the measurement of circulating tumor cells based on fluorescent immunostaining technology is complicated. These reasons have hampered the introduction of the method to Korea.
“We are planning large-scale clinical tests using circulating tumor cell measurement technology developed in partnership with Paik Hospital,” professor Han said. The research team has been applying for the registration of a patent at home and abroad. The September edition of Analytical Chemistry, an international science magazine, carried a story about this research.