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.
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