AFM-compatible microfluidic platform for affinity-based capture and nanomechanical characterization of circulating tumor cells
Janahi, Farhad K.
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Abstract: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) carried by the patient’s bloodstream are known to lead to the metastatic spread of cancer. It is becoming increasingly clear that an understanding of the nanomechanical characteristics of CTCs, such as elasticity and adhesiveness, represents advancements in tracking and monitoring cancer progression and metastasis. In the present work, we describe a combined microfluidic–atomic force microscopy (AFM) platform that uses antibody–antigen capture to routinely isolate and nanomechanically characterize CTCs present in blood samples from prostate cancer patients. We introduce the reversible assembly of a microfluidic device and apply refined and robust chemistry to covalently bond antibodies onto its glass substrate with high density and the desired orientation. As a result, we show that the device can efficiently capture CTCs from patients with localized and metastatic prostate cancer through anti-EpCAM, anti-PSA, and anti-PSMA antibodies, and it is suitable for AFM measurements of captured intact CTCs. When nanomechanically characterized, CTCs originating from metastatic cancer demonstrate decreased elasticity and increased deformability compared to those originating from localized cancer. While the average adhesion of CTCs to the AFM tip surface remained the same in both the groups, there were fewer multiple adhesion events in metastatic CTCs than there were in their counterparts. The developed platform is simple, robust, and reliable and can be useful in the diagnosis and prognosis of prostate cancer as well as other forms of cancer.