prostate cancer discovery

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the patrick c. walsh prostate cancer research fund

Finding Those “One in a Billion” Cells

“Analyzing these cells presents the potential of a ‘liquid biopsy’ – studying cancer cells without having to extract them during a prostate biopsy.” In prostate cancer, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cancer cells that have escaped the prostate and entered the bloodstream. The problem is, these elusive cells are few and far between — proverbial needles in the haystack, says Dan Stoianovici, Ph.D., Director of the Urology Robotics Program.

And yet, finding them would be so helpful: “Analyzing these cells presents the potential of a ‘liquid biopsy’ — studying cancer cells without having to extract them during a prostate biopsy,” Stoianovici says. “It would also open a wide range of possibilities for personalized medicine. However, isolating these rare cells is very difficult due to their extremely small concentrations, as low as one in a billion of blood cells.”

If anyone can figure out how to do this, it’s Stoianovici, a brilliant scientist and Professor of Urology, Mechanical Engineering, Neurosurgery, and Oncology. With support from the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund and with co-investigator Michael Gorin, M.D., he plans to design and build a novel device to isolate these cells from blood samples. It will feature “a controlled magnetic CTC scanning process, and will directly transfer the CTC onto a standard microscope slide, eliminating the current need to discard part of the blood prior to the extraction.”

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