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Cultured circulating tumor cells and their derived xenografts for personalized oncology.


Recent cancer research has demonstrated the existence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in cancer patient's blood. Once identified, CTC biomarkers will be invaluable tools for clinical diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. In this review, we propose ex vivo culture as a rational strategy for large scale amplification of the limited numbers of CTCs from a patient sample, to derive enough CTCs for accurate and reproducible characterization of the biophysical, biochemical, gene expressional and behavioral properties of the harvested cells. Because of tumor cell heterogeneity, it is important to amplify all the CTCs in a blood sample for a comprehensive understanding of their role in cancer metastasis. By analyzing critical steps and technical issues in ex vivo CTC culture, we developed a cost-effective and reproducible protocol directly culturing whole peripheral blood mononuclear cells, relying on an assumed survival advantage in CTCs and CTC-like cells over the normal cells to amplify this specified cluster of cancer cells.

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