Centre for Precision Health / School of Medical and Health Sciences
Rutherford Discovery fellowship to A.C. / Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Catalyst funding from New Zealand, Dunedin School of Medicine / The Healthcare Otago Charitable Trust grant / Maurice Phyllis Paykel Trust grant
Circulating tumour cells (CTC) from solid tumours are a prerequisite for metastasis. Isolating CTCs and understanding their biology is essential for developing new clinical tests and precision oncology. Currently, CellSearch is the only FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-approved method for CTC enrichment but possesses several drawbacks owing to a reliance on the epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and a resource-intensive nature. Addressing these shortcomings, we optimised an existing size-based method, MetaCell, to enrich CTCs from blood of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. We evaluated the ability of MetaCell to enrich CTCs by spiking blood with CRC cell lines and assessing the cell recovery rates and WBC depletion via immunostaining and gene expression. We then applied MetaCell to samples from 17 CRC patients and seven controls. Recovery rates were >85% in cell lines, with >95% depletion in WBCs. MetaCell yielded CTCs and CTC clusters in 52.9% and 23.5% of the patients, respectively, without false positives in control patients. CTCs and cluster detection did not correlate with histopathological parameters. Overall, we demonstrated that the MetaCell platform enriched CRC cells with high recovery rates and high purity. Our pilot study also demonstrated the ability of MetaCell to detect CTCs in CRC patients.
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