Research highlight

Cancer: Capturing of early metastatic cells on the move

Nature Communications

September 9, 2015

An innovative method that allows the early detection of tumour cells that are spreading through the body is described in a study in mice published in Nature Communications. The new device could facilitate the development of strategies to halt disease progression in cancer patients.

The spread of circulating tumour cells is a significant source of mortality, often because it is detected at an advanced stage. Much attention has been focused on screening for the presence of 'circulating tumour cells' travelling through the bloodstream as a measure of metastasis. However, these cells are extremely rare and challenging to detect.

In an effort to identify metastasis at an early stage, Shea and colleagues capture and image metastasising cells in mice using an implant made of biomaterial. By recruiting immune cells that attract circulating tumour cells, this device captures circulating tumour cells, thereby reducing the number of tumour cells in the blood stream and at metastatic sites.

The ability of the implant to reduce the spread of cancer cells in animals suggests this new technology has potential as a therapeutic tool, serving as a sink to capture circulating tumour cells. Captured cells can also be retrieved from the implant and analysed to identify potential biomarkers and targets for the development of personalized therapies.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms9094

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