Circulating tumour cells in cancer patients: challenges and perspectives

Trends Mol Med. 2010 Sep;16(9):398-406. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2010.07.001. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


Ultrasensitive methods have been recently developed to detect circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in the peripheral blood and disseminated tumour cells (DTCs) in the bone marrow (BM) of cancer patients. Studies with these new methods indicate that BM is a common homing organ and a reservoir for DTCs derived from various organ sites including breast, prostate, lung and colon. Peripheral blood analyses, however, are more convenient for patients than invasive BM sampling and many research groups are currently assessing the clinical utility of CTCs for prognosis and monitoring response to systemic therapies. Moreover, molecular analyses of CTCs/DTCs have provided new insights into the biology of metastasis with important implications for the clinical management of cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / drug effects
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents