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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2013 May;62(5):931-9. doi: 10.1007/s00262-012-1387-1. Epub 2013 Jan 12.

Circulating tumor cells as therapy-related biomarkers in cancer patients.

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Institute of Tumor Biology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistrasse 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany.


Carcinomas (tumors of epithelial origin) are responsible for most of all new cancers in the industrialized countries. Due to the high mortality rate caused by the metastatic spread of aggressive cancer cells, there is an urgent demand in finding new biomarkers, which should detect early formation of metastases and monitor efficacy of systemic adjuvant therapy in a timely manner. It has been considered that the molecular analysis of cells which are shed from tumors into the blood system (circulating tumor cells (CTCs)) might provide new insights for the clinical management of cancer, probably far earlier than using traditional high-resolution imaging technologies. Clinical trials indicated that CTCs can be deployed for diagnostic, monitoring, and prognostic purposes. Furthermore, these cells are discussed to be suitable as predictive markers. In any case, identification of CTCs requires innovative and challenging technologies as detection methods should be specific, sensitive, standardized, and highly reproducible. Although many different approaches have been developed until now, only the CellSearchâ„¢ method has been cleared by the American Food and Drug Administration. Although the detection of CTCs has already shown to have a prognostic impact in many tumor entities including breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer, ongoing and future studies are aimed to explore whether CTCs can be used for an individual therapy decision making including novel immunotherapeutic approaches. This review discusses (1) different detection strategies for CTCs, (2) their clinical impact, and (3) the potential use of CTCs guiding the treatment of individual cancer patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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