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Circulating tumor cells (CTC) are shed in peripheral blood at advanced metastatic stages of solid cancers. Surface-marker-based detection of CTC predicts recurrence and survival in colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer. However, scarcity and variation in size, morphology, expression profile, and antigen exposure impairs reliable detection and characterization of CTC. We have developed a noncontact, label-free microfluidic acoustophoresis method to separate prostate cancer cells from white blood cells (WBC) through forces generated by ultrasonic resonances in microfluidic channels. Implementation of cell prealignment in a temperature-stabilized (±0.5 °C) acoustophoresis microchannel dramatically enhanced the discriminatory capacity and enabled the separation of 5 μm microspheres from 7 μm microspheres with 99% purity. Next, we determined the feasibility of employing label-free microfluidic acoustophoresis to discriminate and divert tumor cells from WBCs using erythrocyte-lysed blood from healthy volunteers spiked with tumor cells from three prostate cancer cell-lines (DU145, PC3, LNCaP). For cells fixed with paraformaldehyde, cancer cell recovery ranged from 93.6% to 97.9% with purity ranging from 97.4% to 98.4%. There was no detectable loss of cell viability or cell proliferation subsequent to the exposure of viable tumor cells to acoustophoresis. For nonfixed, viable cells, tumor cell recovery ranged from 72.5% to 93.9% with purity ranging from 79.6% to 99.7%. These data contribute proof-in-principle that label-free microfluidic acoustophoresis can be used to enrich both viable and fixed cancer cells from WBCs with very high recovery and purity.

Original publication




Journal article


Anal Chem

Publication Date





7954 - 7962


Antigens, Neoplasm, Cell Adhesion Molecules, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Proliferation, Cell Separation, Cell Survival, Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule, Humans, Leukocyte Common Antigens, Leukocytes, Male, Microfluidic Analytical Techniques, Neoplastic Cells, Circulating, Prostatic Neoplasms, Temperature