Tumors within an organ release cells into the 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 the circulation and how long it takes for them to be eliminated by exchanging blood between mice and counting CTCs in real-time. The researchers were able to investigate CTCs from pancreatic cancers and two types of lung tumors using their unique technique.
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, which can provide a wealth of information about a patient’s tumor and even assist doctors in tracking how a tumor responds to treatment.