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World J Clin Oncol. Nov 10, 2010; 1(1): 18-23
Published online Nov 10, 2010. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v1.i1.18
Microfluidics: Emerging prospects for anti-cancer drug screening
Donald Wlodkowic, Zbigniew Darzynkiewicz
Donald Wlodkowic, Auckland Microfabrication Facility, Department of Chemistry, University of Auckland, 1142 Auckland, New Zealand
Zbigniew Darzynkiewicz, Brander Cancer Research Institute, Department of Pathology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY 10595, United States
Author contributions: Wlodkowic D and Darzynkiewicz Z contributed to the design and wrote the manuscript.
Correspondence to: Dr. Donald Wlodkowic, MSc, PhD, Assistant Professor, Auckland Microfabrication Facility, Department of Chemistry, University of Auckland, 23 Symonds Street, 1142 Auckland, New Zealand.
Telephone: +64-9-3737599 Fax: +64-9-3737422
Received: April 21, 2010
Revised: July 27, 2010
Accepted: August 3, 2010
Published online: November 10, 2010

Cancer constitutes a heterogenic cellular system with a high level of spatio-temporal complexity. Recent discoveries by systems biologists have provided emerging evidence that cellular responses to anti-cancer modalities are stochastic in nature. To uncover the intricacies of cell-to-cell variability and its relevance to cancer therapy, new analytical screening technologies are needed. The last decade has brought forth spectacular innovations in the field of cytometry and single cell cytomics, opening new avenues for systems oncology and high-throughput real-time drug screening routines. The up-and-coming microfluidic Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) technology and micro-total analysis systems (μTAS) are arguably the most promising platforms to address the inherent complexity of cellular systems with massive experimental parallelization and 4D analysis on a single cell level. The vast miniaturization of LOC systems and multiplexing enables innovative strategies to reduce drug screening expenditures while increasing throughput and content of information from a given sample. Small cell numbers and operational reagent volumes are sufficient for microfluidic analyzers and, as such, they enable next generation high-throughput and high-content screening of anti-cancer drugs on patient-derived specimens. Herein we highlight the selected advancements in this emerging field of bioengineering, and provide a snapshot of developments with relevance to anti-cancer drug screening routines.

Keywords: Microfluidics, Lab-on-a-chip, Cytometry, Cytomics, Cancer, Anti-cancer drugs, Cancer therapy, Drug screening