Centrosome amplification is a frequent event in circulating tumor cells from subjects with metastatic breast cancer

Mol Oncol. 2020 Aug;14(8):1898-1909. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12687. Epub 2020 May 19.


Centrosome amplification (CA) is a common phenomenon in cancer, promotes genomic stability and cancer evolution, and has been reported to promote metastasis. CA promotes a stochastic gain/loss of chromosomes during cell division, known as chromosomal instability (CIN). However, it is unclear whether CA is present in circulating tumor cells (CTCs), the seeds for metastasis. Here, we surveyed CA in CTCs from human subjects with metastatic breast cancer. CTCs were captured by CD45 exclusion and selection of EpCAM-positive cells using an exclusion-based sample preparation technology platform known as VERSA (versatile exclusion-based rare sample analysis). Centriole amplification (centrin foci> 4) is the definitive assay for CA. However, determination of centrin foci is technically challenging and incompatible with automated analysis. To test if the more technically accessible centrosome marker pericentrin could serve as a surrogate for centriole amplification in CTCs, cells were stained with pericentrin and centrin antibodies to evaluate CA. This assay was first validated using breast cancer cell lines and a nontransformed epithelial cell line model of inducible CA, then translated to CTCs. Pericentrin area and pericentrin area x intensity correlate well with centrin foci, validating pericentrin as a surrogate marker of CA. CA is found in CTCs from 75% of subjects, with variability in the percentage and extent of CA in individual circulating cells in a given subject, similar to the variability previously seen in primary tumors and cell lines. In summary, we created, validated, and implemented a novel method to assess CA in CTCs from subjects with metastatic breast cancer. Such an assay will be useful for longitudinal monitoring of CA in cancer patients and in prospective clinical trials for assessing the impact of CA on response to therapy.

Keywords: CTC; EpCAM; breast cancer; centrin; centrosome amplification; pericentrin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antigens / blood
  • Antigens / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Centrioles / metabolism
  • Centrosome / metabolism*
  • Centrosome / pathology
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antigens
  • EPCAM protein, human
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • pericentrin
  • PLK4 protein, human
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • PTPRC protein, human