Background: Obtaining tissue for pancreatic carcinoma diagnosis and biomarker assessment to aid drug development is challenging. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) may represent a potential biomarker to address these unmet needs. We compared prospectively the utility of two platforms for CTC enumeration and characterisation in pancreatic cancer patients in a pilot exploratory study.
Patients and methods: Blood samples were obtained prospectively from 54 consenting patients and analysed by CellSearch and isolation by size of epithelial tumour cells (ISET). CellSearch exploits immunomagnetic capture of CTCs-expressing epithelial markers, whereas ISET is a marker independent, blood filtration device. Circulating tumour cell expression of epithelial and mesenchymal markers was assessed to explore any discrepancy in CTC number between the two platforms.
Results: ISET detected CTCs in more patients than CellSearch (93% vs 40%) and in higher numbers (median CTCs/7.5 ml, 9 (range 0-240) vs 0 (range 0-144)). Heterogeneity observed for epithelial cell adhesion molecule, pan-cytokeratin (CK), E-Cadherin, Vimentin and CK 7 expression in CTCs may account for discrepancy in CTC number between platforms.
Conclusion: ISET detects more CTCs than CellSearch and offers flexible CTC characterisation with potential to investigate CTC biology and develop biomarkers for pancreatic cancer patient management.