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Br J Cancer. 2008 Jun 3;98(11):1731-5. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604383. Epub 2008 May 27.

Circulating endothelial cells in oncology: pitfalls and promises.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Adequate blood supply is a prerequisite in the pathogenesis of solid malignancies. As a result, depriving a tumour from its oxygen and nutrients, either by preventing the formation of new vessels, or by disrupting vessels already present in the tumour, appears to be an effective treatment modality in oncology. Given the mechanism by which these agents exert their anti-tumour activity together with the crucial role of tumour vasculature in the pathogenesis of tumours, there is a great need for markers properly reflecting its impact. Circulating endothelial cells (CEC), which are thought to derive from damaged vasculature, may be such a marker. Appropriate enumeration of these cells appears to be a technical challenge. Nevertheless, first studies using validated CEC assays have shown that CEC numbers in patients with advanced malignancies are elevated compared to healthy controls making CEC a potential tool for among other establishing prognosis and therapy-induced effects. In this review, we will address the possible clinical applications of CEC detection in oncology, as well as the pitfalls encountered in this process.

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