A major challenge in the clinical management of cancer is the early detection and prevention of metastatic lesions, which account for the majority of cancer-related deaths. Frontline surveillance of metastatic cancer relies, in part, on medical imaging, lymph node biopsies, and biomarker monitoring. However, these approaches are often lack the sensitivity to identify early metastasis. Early in the metastatic cascade, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) enter the bloodstream and serve as a potential marker for metastatic progression. To monitor CTCs, microfluidic devices have been developed to isolate and quantify CTCs prior to and during treatment. 

A major limitation to current CTC capture devices is the inability to release and monitor cells following isolation from whole blood. To address this, we have incorporated photoresponsive hydrogels into state-of-the-art CTC capture devices, enabling post-capture release of individual cells with light. Release and recovery of captured cells allows for patient-specific downstream analysis of CTCs. We are also developing an injectable 'tumor sponge' for the local recruitment, detection, and destruction of metastatic tumor cells in the body based on our PNP hydrogel platform.



Fischer, P.; Tibbitt, M.W.; et al. "Photodegradable hydrogels within microfluidic capture devices for the selective capture and release of mammalian cells" in preparation.

Tibbitt, M.W.; Anseth, K.S.; Kloxin, A.M.; Toner, M.; Oakey, J.; Shah, A. "Selective capture and release of rare mammalian cells using photodegradable hydrogels in a microfluidic platform" WO2015010019A1.

Appel, E.A.*Tibbitt, M.W.*; Webber, M.J.; Mattix, B.A.; Veiseh, O.; Langer, R. "Self-assembled hydrogels utilizing polymer-nanoparticle interactionsNature Communications20156, 6295.