Tumors within an organ release cells into circulation as they grow. These cells can spread to other organs, causing metastases or new tumors. Engineers have now discovered a technology that allows them to assess the rate of development of these circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in mice for the first time. Their method, which also displays how long CTCs survive after being injected into the bloodstream, could aid scientists in learning more about how malignancies spread throughout the body.
They could directly measure how quickly CTCs enter circulation and how long it takes to eliminate them by exchanging blood between mice and counting CTCs in real-time. The researchers used their unique technique to investigate CTCs from pancreatic cancers and two lung tumors.
Patients with circulating tumor cells are uncommon: one milliliter of blood may contain one to ten such cells. Researchers have found techniques to capture these elusive cells in recent years, providing a wealth of information about a patient’s tumor and even assisting doctors in tracking how a tumor responds to treatment.
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