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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 239362, 22 pages
Review Article

Benchtop Technologies for Circulating Tumor Cells Separation Based on Biophysical Properties

Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Received 26 December 2014; Revised 26 February 2015; Accepted 26 February 2015

Academic Editor: Jianyu Y. Rao

Copyright © 2015 Wan Shi Low and Wan Abu Bakar Wan Abas. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are tumor cells that have detached from primary tumor site and are transported via the circulation system. The importance of CTCs as prognostic biomarker is leveraged when multiple studies found that patient with cutoff of 5 CTCs per 7.5 mL blood has poor survival rate. Despite its clinical relevance, the isolation and characterization of CTCs can be quite challenging due to their large morphological variability and the rare presence of CTCs within the blood. Numerous methods have been employed and discussed in the literature for CTCs separation. In this paper, we will focus on label free CTCs isolation methods, in which the biophysical and biomechanical properties of cells (e.g., size, deformability, and electricity) are exploited for CTCs detection. To assess the present state of various isolation methods, key performance metrics such as capture efficiency, cell viability, and throughput will be reported. Finally, we discuss the challenges and future perspectives of CTC isolation technologies.