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Int J Cancer. 2014 Jan 1;134(1):1-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28134. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

Circulating tumor cells in pancreatic cancer patients: methods of detection and clinical implications.

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Department of Haematology and Oncology, Stavanger University Hospital, N-4068, Stavanger, Norway.


The poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer patients is associated with the frequent and early dissemination of the disease, as well as late detection due to unspecific and late symptoms from the primary tumor. Pancreatic cancers frequently spread to the liver, lung and skeletal system, suggesting that pancreatic tumor cells must be able to intravasate and travel through the circulation to distant organs. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are tumor cells that have acquired the ability to enter the circulatory system; this cell population is ultimately responsible for the development of metastases in distant organs. Clinical studies have revealed that the presence of CTCs in blood is correlated with disease progression for other cancers, such as breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. However, as CTCs are extremely rare, both enrichment and sensitive methods of detection are required for their enumeration. This review highlights various enrichment procedures and methods for the detection of CTCs. Furthermore, we systematically review previously reported studies of the clinical relevance of CTC detection in pancreatic cancer patients. There is evidence that the presence of CTCs also correlates with an unfavorable outcome in pancreatic cancer patients. However, technical/methodological issues may explain why some studies only show a trend toward an association between CTC detection and disease progression. Larger studies, as well as characterization of the CTC population, are required to achieve further insight into the clinical implications of CTC detection in pancreatic cancer patients.


circulating tumor cells; pancreatic adenocarcinoma; pancreatic cancer; prognosis; survival

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