Circulating tumor markers: harmonizing the yin and yang of CTCs and ctDNA for precision medicine

Ann Oncol. 2017 Mar 1;28(3):468-477. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdw619.


Current trajectory of clinical care is heading in the direction of personalized medicine. In an ideal scenario, clinicians can obtain extensive diagnostic and prognostic information via minimally-invasive assays. Information available in the peripheral blood has the potential to bring us closer to this goal. In this review we highlight the contributions of circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA and RNA (ctDNA/ctRNA) towards cancer therapeutic field. We discuss clinical relevance, summarize available and upcoming technologies, and hypothesize how future care could be impacted by a combined study.

Keywords: cell free DNA; cell free RNA; circulating tumor DNA; circulating tumor RNA; circulating tumor cells; exosomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Circulating Tumor DNA / blood*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism*
  • Precision Medicine


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Circulating Tumor DNA
  • DNA, Neoplasm