Project objective

Individualized monitoring of cancer metastatis is a prominent concern of clinicians and cancer biologist during cancer therapy. The vision of MIRACLE is to develop the first automated system that can isolate viable circulating tumor cells (CTC’s) from blood with high purity and perform multigene-analysis for individual CTC’s. The high specificity, sensitivity & flexibility of CTC analysis will allow accurate early prognosis for metastasis and will foster fundamental studies on metastasis at single cell level.

A major challenge for occult tumour cell detection is their extremely low concentration (down to below a single cell per mL of blood or bone marrow in the midst of millions of leukocytes and even more red blood cells). Current detection methods are often based on enrichment techniques followed by cumbersome microscopic analysis of the cell phenotype. For CTC, some of these procedure steps have already been semi-automated, but the interpretation of the cell morphology requires expertise and remains subjective to a certain extent.

In contrary to standard phenotyping tests, MIRACLE aims to develop a fully automated and integrated microsystem providing the genotype (gene expression profile) of CTCs and DTCs starting from clinical samples. This requires the integration and automation of all sample preprocessing steps including the enrichment, counting, electrochemical characterization and genotyping of the cells. This envisaged, fully-automated MIRACLE test would yield decisive results fast and cost-effective, as compared with contemporary diagnostics tests that may take days.

With the essential individual modules recently demonstrated on automated chips in a joint project by some of the partners involved (MASCOT FP6-027652), the MIRACLE’s consortium is uniquely positioned to lead the project’s main objectives to a successful outcome, well ahead of the current state-of-the-art. Combining the team’s multidisciplinary and unique expertise avoids unnecessary overlap while maintaining the entire process flow from sample preparation to detection. Integrating all components into a fully operational single LOC platform will represent an immense advance for Europe to cope with interfacing and integration problems generic to microfluidic and smart miniaturized systems. More importantly, the realisation of the MIRACLE vision will revolutionise cancer diagnostics and individualized theranostics.

See a movie here: