Optimizing a New Method for Studying the Transcriptome of Circulating Tumor Cells and Clusters
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Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cells that break off of a primary tumor and make it into the blood stream. A small portion of these cells are able to survive and colonize distant organs, a process known as distant metastasis. Although poorly understood, metastasis plays a large role in the high mortality rate commonly associated with breast cancer. In order to gain a better understanding of these metastatic precursors, the author worked to optimize a method to enrich a sample for CTCs, as well as a protocol to study their gene expression. To do this, the author used a series of microfluidic devices to selectively isolate CTCs and their aggregates from patient and mouse blood samples without stressing the cells to the point that they would lyse or their gene expression would be drastically altered. The author was able to obtain results that validate the methods used for enrichment and transcriptomic analysis, which will allow for further study of CTC clusters and potentially uncover novel therapeutic targets to combat metastasis.