Approaches to isolation and molecular characterization of disseminated tumor cells

Mark Jesus M. Magbanua _, Rishi Das, Prithi Polavarapu and John W. Park

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:30715-30729. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5568

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Mark Jesus M. Magbanua1, Rishi Das1, Prithi Polavarapu1 and John W. Park1

1 Division of Hematology/Oncology, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

Correspondence to:

Mark Jesus M. Magbanua, email:

Keywords: disseminated tumor cells, disseminated cancer cells, micrometastatic cells, micrometastasis, minimal residual disease

Received: May 05, 2015 Accepted: August 17, 2015 Published: September 10, 2015


Micrometastatic cells in the bone marrow, now usually referred to as “disseminated tumor cells (DTCs)”, can be detected in early stage cancer patients. It has been hypothesized that DTCs represent key intermediates in the metastatic process as possible precursors of bone and visceral metastases, and are indicators of metastatic potential. Indeed, multiple clinical studies have unequivocally demonstrated the prognostic value of these cells in breast and other cancers, as DTCs have been associated with adverse outcomes, including inferior overall and disease-free survival. Despite this established clinical significance, the molecular nature of DTCs remains elusive. The complexity of the bone marrow poses a unique challenge in the isolation and direct characterization of these rare cells. However, recent advances in rare-cell technology along with technical improvements in analyzing limited cell inputs have enabled the molecular profiling of DTCs. In this review, we discuss research featuring the isolation and genomic analysis of DTCs. Emerging work on the molecular characterization of DTCs is now providing new insights into the biology of these cells.

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