Mehmet Toner and Daniel Haber

Transforming Innovative Ideas into Clinical Realities

Since the discovery of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) some 140 years ago, researchers have struggled to create an efficient method of capturing these elusive and rare cancer cells – until now. The MGH Fund provided seed funding for Mass General researchers to develop the CTC-Chip, a device able to detect and isolate CTCs in the blood of cancer patients with much greater sensitivity than any other existing technology.

The CTCs can then be analyzed to reveal critical information about cancer growth and the effectiveness of different treatments. Researchers believe the technology may revolutionize the way oncologists detect, monitor and treat cancers.

The CTC-Chip technology was made possible through crucial seed funding provided by the MGH Fund. Mass General leadership saw potential in the idea presented by Mehmet Toner, PhD, director of the MGH Center for BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems, and Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Cancer Center. Thanks to the flexibility allowed by the MGH Fund, the hospital was able to provide Dr. Toner and Dr. Haber with the resources they needed to transform their idea into a reality. What will Mass General researchers think of next? With your gift, anything is possible.

“I am very grateful to everyone who supports the MGH Fund,” says Dr. Toner. “Without the MGH Fund, we would not have made the remarkable progress in CTC technologies we can report today.”

Since the initial investment by the MGH Fund, the CTC-Chip team has received tens of millions of dollars in additional funding from outside the hospital. Most recently, Mass General researchers collaborated with Veridex LLC, on a third generation CTC-Chip that shows significant improvement over previously developed devices.

For example, while the older generations of the CTC-Chip required four to five hours to process a single blood sample, the new system is able to handle a tube of blood in less than an hour. In addition, the new CTC-Chip no longer requires prior identification of tumor-specific target molecules, enhancing the ability of the device to analyze blood for multiple types of cancers.

The CTC-Chip team is working to refine the system for commercial development so that it may eventually be available to cancer patients everywhere.

"We hope to develop this technology to the point where it could be used for early diagnosis, which is the 'Holy Grail' that all of us working on CTC technology have been striving for,” says Dr. Toner.

Your gift to the MGH Fund ensures that Mass General is able to translate promising basic research into powerful clinical tools and treatments as quickly as possible. Please consider the impact your contribution can have in helping Mass General meet health care’s most pressing challenges as we continue to work together to save lives every day.