Isolation of circulating tumor cells using photoacoustic flowmetry and two phase flow

Christine M. O'Brien, Kyle D. Rood, Sagar K. Gupta, Jeffrey D. Mosley, Benjamin S. Goldschmidt, Nikhilesh Sharma, Shramik Sengupta, John A. Viator

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, yet current diagnostic methods are inadequately sensitive. Patients must wait until secondary tumors form before malignancy can be diagnosed and treatment prescribed. Detection of cells that have broken off the original tumor and flow through the blood or lymph system can provide data for diagnosing and monitoring cancer. Our group utilizes the photoacoustic effect to detect metastatic melanoma cells, which contain the pigmented granule melanin. As a rapid laser pulse irradiates melanoma, the melanin undergoes thermo-elastic expansion and ultimately creates a photoacoustic wave. Thus, melanoma patient's blood samples can be enriched, leaving the melanoma in a white blood cell (WBC) suspension. Irradiated melanoma cells produce photoacoustic waves, which are detected with a piezoelectric transducer, while the optically transparent WBCs create no signals. Here we report an isolation scheme utilizing two-phase flow to separate detected melanoma from the suspension. By introducing two immiscible fluids through a t-junction into one flow path, the analytes are compartmentalized. Therefore, the slug in which the melanoma cell is located can be identified and extracted from the system. Two-phase immiscible flow is a label free technique, and could be used for other types of pathological analytes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhotons Plus Ultrasound
Subtitle of host publicationImaging and Sensing 2011
StatePublished - 2011
EventPhotons Plus Ultrasound: Imaging and Sensing 2011 - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Jan 23 2011Jan 25 2011

Publication series

NameProgress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE
ISSN (Print)1605-7422


ConferencePhotons Plus Ultrasound: Imaging and Sensing 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA


  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Flowmetry
  • Photoacoustics
  • Separation
  • Slug


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