Mutational analysis of circulating tumor cells using a novel microfluidic collection device and qPCR assay
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) provide a readily accessible source of tumor material from patients with cancer. Molecular profiling of these rare cells can lead to insight on disease progression and therapeutic strategies. A critical need exists to isolate CTCs with sufficient quantity and sample integrity to adapt to conventional analytical techniques. We present a microfluidic platform (IsoFlux) that uses flow control and immunomagnetic capture to enhance CTC isolation. A novel cell retrieval mechanism ensures complete transfer of CTCs into the molecular assay. Improved sensitivity to the capture antigen was demonstrated by spike-in experiments for three cell lines of varying levels of antigen expression. We obtained spike-in recovery rates of 74%, 75%, and 85% for MDA-MB-231 (low), PC3 (middle), and SKBR3 (high) cell lines. Recovery using matched enumeration protocols and matched samples (PC3) yielded 90% and 40% recovery for the IsoFlux and CellSearch systems, respectively. In matched prostate cancer samples (N = 22), patients presenting more than four CTCs per blood draw were 95% and 36% using IsoFlux and CellSearch, respectively. An assay for detecting KRAS mutations was described along with data from patients with colorectal cancer, of which 87% presented CTCs above the assay's limit of detection (four CTCs). The CTC KRAS mutant rate was 50%, with 46% of patients displaying a CTC KRAS mutational status that differed from the previously acquired tissue biopsy data. The microfluidic system and mutation assay presented here provide a complete workflow to track oncogene mutational changes longitudinally with high success rates.