Detection and capture of breast cancer cells with photoacoustic flow cytometry



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of biomedical optics





First Page



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths among women. Metastasis—the presence of secondary tumors caused by the spread of cancer cells via the circulatory or lymphatic systems—significantly worsens the prognosis of any breast cancer patient. A technique is developed to detect circulating breast cancer cells in human blood using a photoacoustic flow cytometry method. A Q-switched laser is used to interrogate thousands of blood cells with one pulse as they flow through the beam path. Cells that are optically absorbing, either naturally or artificially, emit an ultrasound wave as a result of the photoacoustic (PA) effect. Breast cancer cells are targeted with chromophores through immunochemistry in order to enhance optical absorption. After which, the PA cytometry device is calibrated to demonstrate the ability to detect single cells. Cultured breast cancer cells are added to whole blood to reach a biologically relevant concentration of about 25 to 45 breast cancer cells per 1 mL of blood. An in vitro PA flow cytometer is used to detect and isolate these cells followed by capture with the use of a micromanipulator. This method can not only be used to determine the disease state of the patient and the response to therapy but also it can be used for genetic testing and in vitro drug trials since the circulating cell can be captured and studied.

Open Access