Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is ranked as the sixth most common cancer around the world. With the emergence of the state-of-the-art modalities lately, such as liver transplantation, image-guided ablation, and chemoembolization, the death rate is still high due to high metastasis rate after therapy. Observation by biannual ultrasonography allows effective diagnosis at an early stage for candidates with no extrahepatic metastasis, but its effectiveness still remains unsatisfactory. Developing a new test with improved effectiveness and specificity is urgently needed for HCC diagnosis, especially for patients after first line therapy. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are a small sub-population of tumor cells in human peripheral blood, they release from the primary tumor and invade into the blood circulatory system, thereby residing into the distal tissues and survive. As CTCs have specific and aggressive properties, they can evade from immune defenses, induce gene alterations, and modulate signal transductions. Ultimately, CTCs can manipulate tumor behaviors and patient reactions to anti-tumor treatment. Given the fact that in HCC blood is present around the immediate vicinity of the tumor, which allows thousands of CTCs to release into the blood circulation daily, so CTCs are considered to be the main cause for HCC occurrence, and are also a pivotal factor for HCC prognosis. In this review, we highlight the characteristics and enrichment strategies of CTCs, and focus on the use of CTCs for tumor evaluation and management in patients with HCC.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited