The ultimate goal of the B2B device is to follow the metastasis that travels from the cancer chamber to the bone. Metastatic cells substantially differ from any other cell in the ossicle; for example, they express specific markers on the surface which allow easy identification. However, the method used to detect cancer cells within the ossicle might impair the fate of the sample.
“Some methods are very invasive and destructive for the tissue, so we perform them only at the end of the experiment” points out Dr. Farrell, “For example, we can precisely localize the metastasis by dissecting the pellet and looking at the slices with the microscope. Another harsh method implies to crush the pellet, generate a cell suspension and quantify the cancer cells by means of flow cytometry. But in both cases, the ossicle is not recoverable and thus the experiment comes to an end.”
A less invasive option is to visualize the cells directly within the tissue, without the need to destroy the sample. With this purpose in mind, the breast cancer cells used in B2B have been modified to express a luciferase, a bioluminescent protein (see link to Aceto news). As such the cancer cells can be seen with light-sensitive apparatus even when buried inside the tissue. Light penetration might be an issue in the most hidden and internal part of the sample, but if the number of emitting cells is high enough, the signal can be detected. In B2B, we will employ all these methods, as each of them helps to answer different questions. The destruction of the ossicle remains a bottleneck for now, as the generation of a new one is not trivial. That’s why an in vitro alternative is much needed.