Microfluidic applications on circulating tumor cell isolation and biomimicking of cancer metastasis

Xiawei Xu, Zhenqi Jiang, Jing Wang, Yong Ren, Aiguo Wu

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The prognosis of malignant tumors is challenged by insufficient means to effectively detect tumors at early stage. Liquid biopsy using circulating tumor cells (CTCs) as biomarkers demonstrates a promising solution to tackle the challenge, because CTCs play a critical role in cancer metastatic process via intravasation, circulation, extravasation, and formation of secondary tumor. However, the effectiveness of the solution is compromised by rarity, heterogeneity, and vulnerability associated with CTCs. Among a plethora of novel approaches for CTC isolation and enrichment, microfluidics leads to isolation and detection of CTCs in a cost-effective and operation-friendly way. Development of microfluidics also makes it feasible to model the cancer metastasis in vitro using a microfluidic system to mimick the in vivo microenvironment, thereby enabling analysis and monitor of tumor metastasis. This paper aims to review the latest advances for exploring the dual-roles microfluidics has played in early cancer diagnosis via CTC isolation and investigating the role of CTCs in cancer metastasis; the merits and drawbacks for dominating microfluidics-based CTC isolation methods are discussed; biomimicking cancer metastasis using microfluidics are presented with example applications on modelling of tumor microenvironment, tumor cell dissemination, tumor migration, and tumor angiogenesis. The future perspectives and challenges are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-951
Number of pages19
Issue number10-11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • cancer metastasis
  • circulating tumor cells
  • isolation
  • lab-on-a-chip
  • microfluidics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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