Circulating tumour cells in clinical practice: Methods of detection and possible characterization

Marianna Alunni-Fabbroni, Maria Teresa Sandri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) can be released from the primary tumour into the bloodstream and may colonize distant organs giving rise to metastasis. The presence of CTCs in the blood has been documented more than a century ago, and in the meanwhile various methods have been described for their detection. Most of them require an initial enrichment step, since CTCs are a very rare event. The different technologies and also the differences among the screened populations make the clinical significance of CTCs detection difficult to interprete. Here we will review the different assays up to now available for CTC detection and analysis. Moreover, we will focus on the relevance of the clinical data, generated so far and based on the CTCs analysis. Since the vast majority of data have been produced in breast cancer patients, the review will focus especially on this malignancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-297
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • Cell characterization
  • Circulating tumour cell
  • Detection method
  • Enrichment method
  • Immunomagnetic separation
  • Minimal residual disease
  • Real time PCR
  • RT-PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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