Various methods are available for cancer screening, and the methods are performed depending on the origin site of cancer. Among these methods, biopsy followed by medical imaging is the most common. After cancer progression is determined, an optimal treatment—such as surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy—is selected. A new assay has been developed that detects circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Tracking changes in CTCs may reveal important tumoral sensitivity information or resistance patterns to specific regimens and prompt changes in therapy on a personalized basis. Characterization of CTCs at the DNA, RNA, and protein levels is important for gaining insight for clinical applications. A small number of CTCs can be analyzed to obtain genome information such as the progression of cancer including metastasis, even in a single cluster. Although many clinical studies, particularly CTC enumeration and detection of specific oncogene expression, have increased the success rate of diagnosis and predicting prognosis, there is no consensus regarding the technical approaches and various aspects of the methodology, making it difficult to standardize optimal methods for CTC analysis. However, ongoing technological advances are currently being achieved and large-scale clinical studies are being conducted. Applying CTC analysis in the clinic would be very useful for advancing diagnosis, prognosis prediction, and therapeutics.
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