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SRI International launches FASTcell cancer cell screening system

26 Feb 2014

For identification and characterization of "circulating cancer cells".

Research organzation SRI International, Menlo Park, Ca, USA, has developed a photonics-based testing technology called FASTcell, which detects and characterizes rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from blood samples.

The developers say the technology can rapidly identify and capture a single tumor cell from hundreds of millions of normal blood cells, enabling detailed molecular and genetic analysis.

CTCs are important blood markers that may be involved in metastasis (the spread of cancer). The sensitivity and specificity of FASTcell is said to offer cancer researchers “a vital analytical testing service”.

Multiple cancers

It can characterize CTCs from a number of cancers – including breast, lung, prostate, colorectal, and leukemia – by utilizing a range of cancer-specific biomarkers. Investigators can request either validated testing or custom assay development for a wide range of tumor-specific biomarkers.

Lidia Sambucetti, senior director of SRI’s Center for Cancer and Metabolism, commented, “One of the most dangerous aspects of cancer is its ability to spread, and early identification and characterization of CTCs is key to gaining an understanding of metastasis. The strength of FASTcell is its sensitivity and ability to detect CTCs from a broad spectrum of tumor types.”

At the heart of the new assay platform is SRI’s novel Fiber-optic Array Scanning Technology (FAST) cytometer. Acquired from PARC, a Xerox company, and advanced by SRI, the cytometer enables detailed imaging of individual CTCs. Once the tumor cells have been identified and isolated, further investigation can examine the characteristics of single cells by immunohistochemistry and other molecular genomics analytical techniques.

The powerful characterization by FASTcell technology has already been successfully used in a number of collaborative efforts including at nearby City of Hope Cancer Center, Duarte, CA, to evaluate breast cancer heterogeneity, and with Stanford University School of Medicine, to examine biomarkers on CTCs relative to primary tumor biopsies associated with lung cancer.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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