Challenges and unanswered questions for the next decade of circulating tumour cell research in lung cancer
Since blood borne circulating tumour cells (CTCs) initially shed from the primary tumour can seed and initiate metastasis at distant sites a better understanding of the biology of CTCs and their dissemination could provide valuable information that could guide therapeutic intervention and real time monitoring of disease progression. Although CTC enumeration has provided a reliable prognostic readout for a number of cancers, including lung cancer, the precise clinical utility of CTCs remains to be established. The rarity of CTCs together with the vanishingly small amounts of nucleic acids present in a single cell as well as cell to cell heterogeneity has stimulated the development of a wide range of powerful cellular and molecular methodologies applied to CTCs. These technical developments are now enabling researchers to focus on understanding the biology of CTCs and their clinical utility as a predictive and pharmacodynamics markers. This review summarises recent advances in the field of CTC research with focus on technical and biological challenges as well the progress made towards clinical utility of characterisation of CTCs with emphasis on studies in lung cancer.