Circulating Tumor Cells

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Science  13 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6151, pp. 1186-1188
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235226

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The major cause of cancer-associated mortality is tumor metastasis, but our understanding of this process is far from complete. During successful dissemination, tumor cells invade the surrounding tissue of the primary tumor, intravasate into blood and lymphatic vessels, translocate to distant tissues, extravasate, adapt to the new microenvironment, and eventually seed, proliferate, and colonize to form metastases. Because dissemination mostly occurs through the blood, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that have been shed into the vasculature and may be on their way to potential metastatic sites are of obvious interest (1). Here we discuss what is known about CTCs, and suggest future research directions that may help realize their clinical potential.