Deciphering HER2-HER3 Dimerization at the Single CTC Level: A Microfluidic Approach

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Ezgi Tulukcuoglu Guneri, Emile Lakis, Ismail Hajji, Elian Martin, Jerome Champ, Aurore Rampanou, Jean-Yves Pierga, Jean-Louis Viovy, Charlotte Proudhon, François-Clément Bidard, Stéphanie Descroix

Microfluidics has provided clinicians with new technologies to detect and analyze circulating tumor biomarkers in order to further improve their understanding of disease mechanism, as well as to improve patient management. Among these different biomarkers, circulating tumor cells have proven to be of high interest for different types of cancer and in particular for breast cancer. Here we focus our attention on a breast cancer subtype referred as HER2-positive breast cancer, this cancer being associated with an amplification of HER2 protein at the plasma membrane of cancer cells. Combined with therapies targeting the HER2 protein, HER2-HER3 dimerization blockade further improves a patient’s outcome. In this work, we propose a new approach to CTC characterization by on-chip integrating proximity ligation assay, so that we can quantify the HER2-HER3 dimerization event at the level of single CTC. To achieve this, we developed a microfluidic approach combining both CTC capture, identification and HER2-HER3 status quantification by Proximity Ligation Assay (PLA). We first optimized and demonstrated the potential of the on-chip quantification of HER2-HER3 dimerization using cancer cell lines with various levels of HER2 overexpression and validated its clinical potential with a patient’s sample treated or not with HER2-targeted therapy.