Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is an area we will continue to hear more about as their importance to our understanding prostate cancer continues to increase.   CTCs show the movement of cancer cells though the body. It is believed that these CTCs are the method that cancer uses to spread through our body (metastasize).

Measuring the numbers of these circulating cancer cells and characterizing them is hoped to provide a picture of both the aggressiveness of the cancer, provide prognostic information (, and  as well as a method to access the efficacy of a treatment or drug in real time.

The thought process is that the more CTCs the more aggressive the cancer, the more likely it will spread.   It is also believed that if a treatment is effective we should see a decrease in the number of CTCs.

Stay tuned on this front, as we will be seeing 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 as well as validate their ability to inform us about disease progression and treatment effectiveness.

The really exciting future of this research will also include characterizing these cells to evaluate the potential of a drug to be effective before administration ( so that the proper drug can be given and to evaluate the actual efficacy when there are no other existing biomarkers (

CTCs are going to play a major role in the future of our cancer treatment, but they still are not in prime time.  We will see quick and significant changes on this front.

Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.