Circulating tumor cells from enumeration to analysis: Current challenges and future opportunities

Yu Ping Yang, Teresa M. Giret, Richard J. Cote

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have been recognized as a major contributor to distant metastasis. Their unique role as metastatic seeds renders them a potential marker in the circulation for early cancer diagnosis and prognosis as well as monitoring of therapeutic response. In the past decade, researchers mainly focused on the development of isolation techniques for improving the recovery rate and purity of CTCs. These developed techniques have significantly increased the detection sensitivity and enumeration accuracy of CTCs. Currently, significant efforts have been made toward comprehensive molecular characterization, ex vivo expansion of CTCs, and understanding the interactions between CTCs and their associated cells (e.g., immune cells and stromal cells) in the circulation. In this review, we briefly summarize existing CTC isolation technologies and specifi-cally focus on advances in downstream analysis of CTCs and their potential applications in precision medicine. We also discuss the current challenges and future opportunities in their clinical uti-lization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2723
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Circulating tumor microemboli
  • Diagnosis
  • Ex vivo CTC culture
  • Prognosis
  • Single‐cell analysis
  • Therapeutic response


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