Circulating tumor cells in prostate cancer: a potential surrogate marker of survival

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2012 Mar;81(3):241-56. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 Jun 15.


Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in blood are widely used in prostate cancer (PCa) for the management of this disease at every stage of progression. Currently, PSA levels combined with clinical stage and Gleason score provide the best predictor of survival and the main element to monitor treatment efficiency. However, these areas could be improved by utilizing emerging biomarkers. Recently, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and disseminating tumor cells (DTCs) have been detected in PCa and may be a new surrogate candidate. Here we provide a systematic review of the literature in order to describe the current evidence of CTC/DTC surrogacy regarding outcome of prostate cancer patients. We also discuss several markers that could be used to increase the sensitivity and specificity of CTC/DTC detection. CTC/DTC detection is performed using a wide variety of techniques. Initially, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) based methods were utilized with weak correlation between their positive detection and patients' outcome. More recent immunological techniques have indicated a reproducible correlation with outcome. Such surrogate markers may enable clinicians to provide early detection for inefficient treatments and patients with poor prognosis that are candidates for treatment intensification. Dissecting the micrometastasis phenomenon in CTCs/DTCs is a key point to increase surrogacy of this biomarker.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating* / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating* / pathology
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Survival Rate


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen