Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs)
Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) sparked scientific interest over fifty years ago and their detection and analysis is proving to be a highly sought-after tool in the individualisation of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
It is very well established that Circulating Tumour Cells are essential for the establishment of metastases: they function as the single haematological route of malignancies. In fact, ‘metastatic insufficiency’ is officially defined as the elimination of CTCs.
CTCs are a subpopulation of tumour cells derived from the primary cancer site that have:
- Detached from the primary tumour mass
- Adopted genetic mutations that enabled migration through the basement membrane (epithelial tumours) and extracellular matrix
- Dedifferentiated or undergone the Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (carcinoma derived cells only)
- Entered into the peripheral blood stream where the circulate as tumour cells with metastatic potential - this is the point at which they are termned 'Circulating Tumour Cells' (CTCs).
- Have the potential to disseminate and proliferate as a metastatic lesion
- Can stimulate angiogenesis
- May have stem-cell like or tumour initiating properties