Circulating tumour cells in breast cancer

Lancet Oncol. 2004 Feb;5(2):79-88. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(04)01381-6.


By use of modern immunological and molecular analytical techniques, cells with the characteristics of tumour cells can be detected in the blood of many patients with breast cancer. The ability to detect and characterise such cells routinely could have a profound influence on the early diagnosis of breast cancer, risk stratification in the adjuvant setting, early detection of relapse, and the development of new targeted strategies. In this review we discuss current techniques to detect circulating breast-cancer cells and the limitations of these approaches. We also review the clinical studies in breast cancer and discuss the potential relevance of this research to the future management of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / blood
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Specimen Handling


  • DNA, Neoplasm