The way cancer cells move though the body is called circulating tumor cells, or CTCs.  Measuring the numbers of these circulating cancer cells, and characterizing them may provide a picture of both the aggressiveness of the cancer, as well as prognostic information (, and )  In turn, CTCs may become a method to initiate more effective treatment in real time.  The working hypothesis is that the more CTCs there are, the more aggressive the cancer is.  Accordingly, if a treatment is working, we should see a decrease in the number of CTCs.

We expect to see an explosion of new research in this area.  The majority of current research is still involved in finding better ways to find and identify these cells in the blood and validate their ability to inform us about disease progression and treatment effectiveness.  There is also active development underway to find more efficient and less costly methods to measure CTCs in the blood.

The really exciting future of this research will also include the ability to characterize these cells in order to evaluate the drug’s potential effectiveness on an individual, personal level. ( This will enable precise targeting of the proper drug, as well as evaluate actual efficacy when there are no other existing biomarkers (