Isolation and Enumeration of CTC in Colorectal Cancer Patients: Introduction of a Novel Cell Imaging Approach and Comparison to Cellular and Molecular Detection Techniques

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Sep 16;12(9):2643. doi: 10.3390/cancers12092643.


Circulating tumour cells (CTC) were proven to be prognostically relevant in cancer treatment, e.g., in colorectal cancer (CRC). This study validates a molecular detection technique through using a novel cell imaging approach for CTC detection and enumeration, in comparison to a size-based cellular and correlated the data to clinico-pathological characteristics. Overall, 57 CRC patients were recruited for this prospective study. Blood samples were analysed for CTCs by three methods: (1) Epithelial marker immunofluorescence staining combined with automated microscopy using the NYONE® cell imager; (2) isolation by size using membrane filtration with the ScreenCell® Cyto IS device and immunofluorescence staining; (3) detection by semi-quantitative Cytokeratin-20 RT-qPCR. Enumeration data were compared and correlated with clinic-pathological parameters. CTC were detected by either approach; however, with varying positivity rates: NYONE® 36.4%, ScreenCell® 100%, and PCR 80.5%. All methods revealed a positive correlation of CTC presence and higher tumour burden, which was most striking using the ScreenCell® device. Generally, no intercorrelation of CTC presence emerged amongst the applied techniques. Overall, enumeration of CTC after isolation by size demonstrated to be the most reliable strategy for the detection of CTC in CRC patients. Ongoing studies will have to unravel the prognostic value of this finding, and validate this approach in a larger cohort.

Keywords: NYONE®; ScreenCell®; circulating tumour cells; colorectal cancer; isolation by size of epithelial tumour cells; liquid biopsy.