A microfluidic cell migration assay enabling anticancer drug testing of patient-derived tumour cells

The dispersal of tumour cells within malignant tissue relies on a process called chemotaxis, where tumour cells migrate in response to chemical signals in the local microenvironment. There has been longstanding interest in using chemotaxis assays to deduce how invasive a tumour is, and how it might respond to drug therapy. However, current chemotaxis assays are prone to extreme inter-assay variability, due to the inherent instability of the chemical gradient. Additionally, existing assays require a large number of cells, making it impossible to test primary patient tissue, which typically only yields a few hundred tumour cells.

Dr. Park’s research will work towards developing a microfluidic platform to generate highly stable and uniform chemical gradients for the chemotaxis assay of a small number of tumour cells. She will validate the technology by examining the response of cultured tumour cells to chemotherapy. Cells from murine tumour xenograft will further establish the relationship between migration with disease progression and drug-efficacy.

The results of this research could provide a reliable means to evaluate the migratory potential of patient tumour cells both before and in response to therapy, ultimately guiding clinical decisions in practice and within personalized clinical trials.