Label-free microfluidic device for cancer liquid biopsy

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Liquid biopsies offer a less invasive method of early cancer detection; however, circulating cancer cells are rare and difficult to detect.  The current technology is a device that allows for sensitive, label-free enrichment of circulating neoplastic cells in order to facilitate the detection of cancer biomarkers from peripheral blood samples.

Technology Overview

Cancer diagnostics is a growing market, and the ability to provide liquid biopsies is an attractive alternative for doctors and patients wanting to avoid invasive procedures. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute have developed a novel microfluidic device that utilizes the intrinsic dielectrophoretic (DEP) properties of cells to quickly and efficiently enrich the patient sample for circulating neoplastic cells of interest. Features of the device include:

  • Ability to enrich populations of circulating neoplastic cells such as circulating hybrid cells, which are a novel and more abundant cell type comprised of hematopoietic and epithelial/tumor properties, as biomarkers for cancer. 
  • Compatibility with peripheral blood samples or enriched PMBCs for reduced sample processing.
  • Utilization of dielectric tags to provide more specific sorting and enrichment of rare cell populations.
  • Several competitive advantages over existing products, including high cell viability, label-free sorting, and short processing time

Overall, this method allows for the enrichment of cells of interest for further downstream analysis to potentially offer a sensitive and less-invasive method for multi-cancer detection.


Mira et al., “Label-free enrichment of rare unconventional circulating neoplastic cells using a microfluidic dielectrophoretic sorting device.” Commun Biol  4(2021). Link

Licensing Opportunity

This technology is available for licensing.



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Anne Carlson
Assoc Dir, Tech Dev & Licensing
Oregon Health & Science University
Yu-Jui (Roger) Chiu
Ajay Sapre
Jose Luis Montoya Mira
Kyle Gustafson
Device - Other
Diagnostics - Cancer
Research Tools
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