These Are The Key Technologies For A Liquid Biopsy

Liquid Biopsy Definition

A test done on a sample of blood to look for cancer cells from a tumor that are circulating in the blood or for pieces of DNA from tumor cells that are in the blood. A liquid biopsy may be used to help find cancer at an early stage.


At Phase Three, we have been involved in projects that manipulate blood samples, screen the blood down to serum, and then move the sample through a number of vessels where it is exposed to a sequence of reagents, temperatures, and incubations. All of this is intended to prepare the sample for targeted next generation sequencing (NGS) to allow early detection of cancer cells.

So…what are the key technologies that must work well for this application?

Whole Blood to Serum Separation

Whole blood to serum separation is sometimes required. One way to accomplish this is to flow the blood through a special membrane.



Reliable and Accurate Fluid Pumping

A combination of off-chip pumping, on chip pumping and capillary driven flow has been a solid combination for us on several products. All of these technologies must work perfectly together to get really good control of the fluids and to know exactly where the fluids are located at each process step.


Reliable Disposable Gas Tight Fluid Valves

Some of the applications we have developed require PCR at some point in the process. This requires that gas tight valves keep the sample in a temperature controlled vessel during thermal cycling. Very little or no measurable evaporation is acceptable in this process step which drives the need for a well-characterized on-chip disposable valve. We have spent a lot of resources developing this capability.


Materials Expertise

In this application we are searching for very small amounts of DNA, so it is very important not to have problems with DNA adsorption and lost sample volumes. Control of contact angles in the fluid path is essential to controlling the fluid flow and location at each step in the assay.