Researchers develop lab-on-a-chip for fast cancer detection and therapy

IMEC, a leading European nanotechnology research, the Instituet fuer Mikrotechnik Mainz (IMM), focused on microfluidics research, and their partners within the European Sixth Framework Project MASCOT have developed a lab-on-a-chip for the detection and therapy evaluation of breast cancer. This the first time that a lab-on-a-chip system including many complex sample preparation steps and multiplexed detection has been implemented, says Belgium-based IMEC.

IMEC, a leading European nanotechnology research, the Instituet fuer Mikrotechnik Mainz (IMM), focused on microfluidics research, and their partners within the European Sixth Framework Project MASCOT have developed a lab-on-a-chip for the detection and therapy evaluation of breast cancer. This the first time that a lab-on-a-chip system including many complex sample preparation steps and multiplexed detection has been implemented, says Belgium-based IMEC.

All modules for sample pre-processing and detection are ready for further miniaturisation and integration in a single lab-on-a-chip. The system will be clinically validated in a breast cancer therapy study in Oslo, Norway.

A lab-on-a-chip provides a fast, easy-to-use, cost-effective test method that can be performed at regular times in a doctor's surgery or even near the patient's bed. It is a labour-saving and minimally invasive solution for cancer cell detection, therapy selection and monitoring, the partners say.

The partners developed a modular system where each module has a specific task and autonomy and as such can be used for many different medical applications. The first incubation module mixes the blood sample with functionalised magnetic beads that specifically bind the tumour cells. The second module is used for tumour cell isolation and counting using a combination of dielectrophoresis and magnetic sensing with single cell sensitivity. With the third amplification module, the cell wall of the tumour cells is destroyed and the genetic material (i.e. the mRNA) extracted and amplified based on multiplex ligation dependent probe amplification (MLPA).

Within this module, specific assays amplify about 20 markers that are expressed in breast carcinoma cells. In the final detection module, the amplified genetic material is detected using an array of electrochemical sensors. The modules are now ready for further hetero-integration into a single lab-on-a-chip. By miniaturising and merging the microfluidic and electronic functionalities, the researchers says the reliability and accuracy of the patient's analysis will be improved. The clinical use of the system will be evaluated to compare it with more conventional approaches in a follow-up study.

Within the framework of the MASCOT project, IMEC collaborates with the Institut fuer Mikrotechnik Mainz (Germany), AdnaGenAG (Germany), Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Sweden), NorwegianRadium Hospital (Norway), MRC Holland (The Netherlands), and FuijerebioDiagnosticsAB (Spain).