Liquid Biopsy

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Science  09 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5975, pp. 141
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5975.141-a

Certain cancers spread through the migration of circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Once shed from either primary or metastatic sources into the bloodstream, these cells can become lodged in bone, lungs, brain, or liver. The rarity of the cells, at concentrations of one per billion blood cells, has hindered their use in quantitative evaluations. Stott et al. have now developed an automated imaging system for prostate cancer CTCs. The cells are isolated with a microfluidic chip that extracts them from the leukocytes and red blood cells. They are then stained to highlight the nuclei and prostrate-specific antigens (PSAs), as the distance between the two markers can be used to identify and verify each whole cell.

Significant PSA heterogeneity was detected across the CTCs taken from a range of patients, and there was also considerable variability in the rate of decline of CTCs after surgery. However, the authors were able to track significant decreases in CTCs in patients with metastatic cancer after hormone therapy, with only modest decreases in CTCs after chemotherapy. The authors envision scaling up this automated method for tracking the migration of CTCs.

Sci. Transl. Med. 2, 25ra23 (2010).

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