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Circulating Tumor Cells: From the Laboratory to the Cancer Clinic


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cells that are shed from tumors into the bloodstream. Cell enrichment and isolation technology as well as molecular profiling via next-generation sequencing have allowed for a greater understanding of tumor cancer biology via the interrogation of CTCs. CTC detection can be used to predict cancer relapse, progression, and survival; evaluate treatment effectiveness; and explore the ex vivo functional impact of agents. Detection methods can be by either immunoaffinity (positive or negative enrichment strategies) or biophysical strategies. CTC characterization, which is performed by DNA, RNA, and/or protein techniques, can predict metastatic potential. Currently, CTC-derived explant models may mimic patient response to chemotherapy and help with studying druggable targets and testing treatments. The Food and Drug Administration has cleared a CTC blood test to enumerate CTCs derived from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. In conclusion, liquid biopsies via CTCs provide a non-invasive way to obtain important diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive information in patients with cancer.

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