Being one of the major pillars of liquid biopsy, isolation and characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) during cancer management provides critical information on the evolution of cancer and has great potential to increase the success of therapies. In this article, we define a novel strategy to effectively enrich CTCs from whole blood based on size, utilizing a spiral microfluidic channel embedded with a hydrofoil structure at the downstream of the spiral channel. The hydrofoil increases the distance between the streams of CTCs and peripheral blood cells, which are already distributed about two focal axes by the spiral channel, thereby improving the resolution of the separation. Analytical validation of the system has been carried out using Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 (MCF7) breast cancer cell lines spiked into blood samples from healthy donors, and the performance of the system in terms of white blood cell (WBC) depletion, CTC recovery rate and cell viability has been shown in single or two-step process: by passing the sample once or twice through the microfluidic chip. Single step process yielded high recovery (77.1%), viable (84.7%) CTCs. When the collected cell suspension is re-processed by the same chip, recovery decreases to 65.5%, while the WBC depletion increases to 88.3%, improving the purity. Cell viability of >80% was preserved after two-step process. The novel microfluidic chip is a good candidate for CTC isolation applications requiring high recovery rate and viability, including functional downstream analyses for variety of cancer types.

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In this study, the pressure controller and flow sesnors were part of the microfluidic setup used, which helped to define the novel strategy to effectively enrich circulating tumor cells from whole blood.
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