Theranostics 2017; 7(10):2606-2619. doi:10.7150/thno.18588


Circulating Tumor Cells: Moving Biological Insights into Detection

Lichan Chen, Ann M Bode, Zigang Dong

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, 801 16th Ave NE, Austin, Minnesota 55912

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Chen L, Bode AM, Dong Z. Circulating Tumor Cells: Moving Biological Insights into Detection. Theranostics 2017; 7(10):2606-2619. doi:10.7150/thno.18588. Available from

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Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have shown promising potential as liquid biopsies that facilitate early detection, prognosis, therapeutic target selection and monitoring treatment response. CTCs in most cancer patients are low in abundance and heterogeneous in morphological and phenotypic profiles, which complicate their enrichment and subsequent characterization. Several methodologies for CTC enrichment and characterization have been developed over the past few years. However, integrating recent advances in CTC biology into these methodologies and the selection of appropriate enrichment and characterization methods for specific applications are needed to improve the reliability of CTC biopsies. In this review, we summarize recent advances in the studies of CTC biology, including the mechanisms of their generation and their potential forms of existence in blood, as well as the current CTC enrichment technologies. We then critically examine the selection of methods for appropriately enriching CTCs for further investigation of their clinical applications.