Circulating Tumor Cells and Circulating Tumor DNA: Challenges and Opportunities on the Path to Clinical Utility

Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Nov 1;21(21):4786-800. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1190.


Recent technological advances have enabled the detection and detailed characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTC) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in blood samples from patients with cancer. Often referred to as a "liquid biopsy," CTCs and ctDNA are expected to provide real-time monitoring of tumor evolution and therapeutic efficacy, with the potential for improved cancer diagnosis and treatment. In this review, we focus on these opportunities as well as the challenges that should be addressed so that these tools may eventually be implemented into routine clinical care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • DNA, Neoplasm / blood*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Neoplasm