Tumor cells offer 'real-time' snapshot of cancer status

A scientific team at Genentech says that circulating tumor cells could be a better than a biopsy for obtaining a real-time snapshot of a patient's cancer status. Looking at several different platforms used for capturing these CTCs, the researchers determined they were useful for determining HER2 status, qRT-PCR for breast cancer subtype markers, KRAS mutation detection and EGFR staining by immunofluorescence.

"The basic idea is that CTCs can provide real-time information about a patient's current disease state, acting as a 'liquid biopsy,'" said Siminder Kaur Atwal, senior research associate at Genentech. "They are much less invasive than tumor biopsies because they can be detected from a blood draw and don't require surgical intervention."

But more work remains to be done, added Atwal. Future studies will focus on evaluating different detection and capture methods with an emphasis on tumor types with a low EpCAM expression. Future research will also look for other biomarkers in CTCs to determine if they represent a patient's tumor, she said. Their data was presented at the Fourth AACR International Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development.

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