Using circulating tumor cells to inform on prostate cancer biology and clinical utility

Jing Li, Simon G. Gregory, Mariano A. Garcia-Blanco, Andrew J. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Substantial advances in the molecular biology of prostate cancer have led to the approval of multiple new systemic agents to treat men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). These treatments encompass androgen receptor directed therapies, immunotherapies, bone targeting radiopharmaceuticals and cytotoxic chemotherapies. There is, however, great heterogeneity in the degree of patient benefit with these agents, thus fueling the need to develop predictive biomarkers that are able to rationally guide therapy. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have the potential to provide an assessment of tumor-specific biomarkers through a non-invasive, repeatable "liquid biopsy" of a patients cancer at a given point in time. CTCs have been extensively studied in men with mCRPC, where CTC enumeration using the Cellsearch® method has been validated and FDA approved to be used in conjunction with other clinical parameters as a prognostic biomarker in metastatic prostate cancer. In addition to enumeration, more sophisticated molecular profiling of CTCs is now feasible and may provide more clinical utility as it may reflect tumor evolution within an individual particularly under the pressure of systemic therapies. Here, we review technologies used to detect and characterize CTCs, and the potential biological and clinical utility of CTC molecular profiling in men with metastatic prostate cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-210
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Androgen receptor
  • EpCAM
  • PSA
  • biomarker
  • castration resistant prostate cancer
  • liquid biopsy
  • microfluidic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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