John Oakey’s work at the cellular and molecular level could radically change the way cancer is treated.
Oakey, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Wyoming’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, and his research group have developed an innovative method to isolate cells that are markers of cancer from blood samples.
The cells, known as circulating tumor cells (CTC), are present in the blood of people with tumors in their bodies. The CTCs often migrate from the original tumor site and end up in other areas of the body, potentially growing in the liver, the brain or the lymph nodes. The spread of these cells and the creation of secondary tumors is the process of metastasis, and the treatment of the affected area ends up damaging all cells, including healthy ones.
That makes isolating the CTCs an important but extremely difficult task. A sample of 1 milliliter of blood contains billions of cells, which could contain between one and several hundred CTCs. Current research tactics can isolate the cells, but they typically are mixed with other blood cells. Read more