Saturday, October 24, 2009
Cell, Tumor, and Stem Cell Biology
In vivo, Noninvasive, Label-Free Detection and Eradication of Circulating Metastatic Melanoma Cells Using Two-Color Photoacoustic Flow Cytometry with a Diode Laser
Key Words: circulating tumor cells • melanoma • photoacoustic detection
The circulating tumor cell (CTC) count has been shown as a prognostic marker for metastasis development. However, its clinical utility for metastasis prevention remains unclear, because metastases may already be present at the time of initial diagnosis with existing assays. Their sensitivity ex vivo is limited by a small blood sample volume, whereas in vivo examination of larger blood volumes may be clinically restricted by the toxicity of labels used for targeting of CTCs. We introduce a method for in vivo photoacoustic blood cancer testing with a high-pulse-repetition-rate diode laser that, when applied to melanoma, is free of this limitation. It uses the overexpression of melanin clusters as intrinsic, spectrally-specific cancer markers and signal amplifiers, thus providing higher photoacoustic contrast of melanoma cells compared with a blood background. In tumor-bearing mouse models and melanoma-spiked human blood samples, we showed a sensitivity level of 1 CTC/mL with the potential to improve this sensitivity 103-fold in humans in vivo, which is impossible with existing assays. Additional advances of this platform include decreased background signals from blood through changes in its oxygenation, osmolarity, and hematocrit within physiologic norms, assessment of CTCs in deep vessels, in vivo CTC enrichment, and photoacoustic-guided photothermal ablation of CTCs in the bloodstream. These advances make feasible the early diagnosis of melanoma during the initial parallel progression of primary tumor and CTCs, and laser blood purging using noninvasive or hemodialysis-like schematics for the prevention of metastasis.