ctFRAC – Development of microfluidic sample preparation devices for the rapid enrichment and purification of specific circulating tumor DNA fractions

Heriot-Watt University

Active award

Student: Ieva Keraite

Year Award Started: 2016

Liquid biopsies allow DNA shed from tumours to be detected using blood tests without invasive and expensive surgery associated with traditional tissue biopsies. However, such liquid biopsies have not yet been fully deployed in primary oncology care as the main cancer diagnostic or screening tool because tumour DNA is present in small amounts and not always detectable. This lack of sensitivity is largely due to the presence of a large amount of genomic “background” DNA which masks the tumour DNA signal. In addition, the tumour DNA is more fragmented than the genomic DNA found in all healthy subjects, making it more difficult to detect. We have already developed a microfluidic chip which enables the rapid extraction of plasma from maternal blood and also enriches the smaller more fragmented fractions of fetal circulating DNA. In this project we propose to apply these findings to develop an efficient preparation approach for liquid cancer biopsy in a microfluidic format, which can then be used with current diagnostic assays. By enabling rapid and sensitive detection of circulating tumour DNA, and fitting in with existing diagnostic workflows, this novel sample preparation technique has the potential to transform early detection and characterisation of cancer using a simple blood sample.

Research area: Cancer


Dr Maïwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas
School of Engineering & Physical Sciences
Dr Nicholas Leslie
Institute of Biological Chemistry, Bioengineering and Biophysics

Multiplicom N.V.