A pinboard by
Arutha Kulasinghe

PhD candidate, Queensland Univeristy of Technology/Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation


A simple blood test to serve as a liquid biopsy

My PhD research over the past 3.5 years has been focussed on the development of non-invasive diagnostic tools for the early detection of metastatic cancers. Metastasis remains the major cause of cancer related deaths and very little is understood about the metastatic seeds in circulation, commonly termed circulating tumour cells (CTCs). My research, through the use of state of the art CTC isolation methodologies has led to a number of significant advances in knowledge in the areas of head and neck cancers (HNCs). My work has clarified the need to move away from epitope dependent platforms to more unbiased CTC capture methodologies which are able to capture single and CTC clusters. My work in CTC clusters has been one of the few early studies documenting these in head and neck cancer patients and have been reported to have a higher metastatic potential than single CTCs. The bottleneck in the field has been to expand these rare cancer cells from the patient’s blood. More recently, I was able to report, for the first time in HNCs, short term CTC expansion outside the patient’s body using novel culture formulations, growth formats (2D/3D) under hypoxic conditions. These short term cultures can be used for the testing of medicines and drug sensitivity assays to determine whether culture responses parallel patient responses to therapy. My research has also revealed that biomarkers are expressed on CTCs which can be used to select patients for immunotherapy – a current unmet clinical need. My research from my PhD has led to 12 publications consisting of 6 research articles (all first author), 3 reviews (all first author), 3 book chapters (2 first author, 1 second author) with the majority in reputable Q1 cancer journals.