Circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA for precision medicine: dream or reality?

Ann Oncol. 2014 Dec;25(12):2304-2313. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu480. Epub 2014 Oct 21.


Next-generation sequencing studies have provided further evidence to support the notion that cancer is a disease characterized by Darwinian evolution. Today, we often fail to capture this evolution and treatment decisions, even in the metastatic setting, are often based on analysis of primary tumor diagnosed years ago. Currently, this is considered a major reason for treatment failures in cancer care. Recent technological advances in the detection and characterization of circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA might address this and allow for treatment tailoring based on real-time monitoring of tumor evolution. In this review, we summarize the most important recent findings in the field, focusing on challenges and opportunities in moving these tools forward in clinical practice.

Keywords: circulating tumor DNA; circulating tumor cells; liquid biopsy; precision medicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Neoplasm / blood*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating*


  • DNA, Neoplasm