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Theranostics. 2013 Apr 23;3(6):377-94. doi: 10.7150/thno.5195. Print 2013.

Detecting circulating tumor cells: current challenges and new trends.

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TeloVISION, LLC, 1281 Win Hentschel Blvd. West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA.


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood stream play a critical role in establishing metastases. The clinical value of CTCs as a biomarker for early cancer detection, diagnosis, prognosis, prediction, stratification, and pharmacodynamics have been widely explored in recent years. However, the clinical utility of current CTC tests is limited mainly due to methodological constraints. In this review, the pros and cons of the reported CTC assays are comprehensively discussed. In addition, the potential of tumor cell-derived materials as new targets for CTC detection, including circulating tumor microemboli, cell fragments, and circulating DNA, is evaluated. Finally, emerging approaches for CTC detection, including telomerase-based or aptamer-based assays and cell functional analysis, are also assessed. Expectantly, a thorough review of the current knowledge and technology of CTC detection will assist the scientific community in the development of more efficient CTC assay systems.


CTC: Circulating tumor cell; CTDNA: Circulating tumor DNA; CTM: Circulating tumor microemboli; CTMat: Circulating tumor materials; POCT: Point-of-care test.

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