Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) represent a surrogate biomarker of hematogenous metastases. In recent years, their detection has gained increasing interest. There is ample evidence regarding the ability to detect CTCsand their prognostic relevance, but their demonstrated predictive value in therapeutic response monitoring is clinically even more meaningful. Many clinical trials in the early and metastatic cancer setting now include CTCs as a monitoring parameter, and numerous translational studies attempting their molecular characterization are under way. There has been great progress in defining the clinical importance of CTCs, and it now seems likely that we may expect wider implementation of CTCs as a diagnostic oncology tool to monitor therapeutic response in real time. Novel technologies may further facilitate molecular characterization of CTCs and development of novel therapeutic targets, possibly leading to more powerful treatment strategies for cancer patients. As the detection and evaluation of CTCs are becoming an increasingly important diagnostic and prognostic tool, the goal of this review is to communicate the knowledge obtained through analysis of primary tumors and CTCs to oncologists and medical specialists in managing patients with cancer.
- cancer stem cells (CSCs)
- disseminated tumor cells (DTCs)
- minimal residual disease
- therapeutic response