The clinical utility of circulating tumour cells in patients with small cell lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for 15% of lung cancer diagnosed worldwide. It is aggressive and characterised by early metastatic spread with rapid development of chemo resistance such that less than 5% of patients diagnosed survive 5 years. Surgery is rarely performed and failure to identify new effective treatments has been attributed in a large part to lack of good quality tumour biopsies available for translational research. Liquid biopsies provide a minimally invasive alternative to traditional tumour biopsy. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are abundant in SCLC and can be enriched and isolated from a venous blood sample. In recent years progress has been made into the molecular characterisation of CTCs and their use to form tumour xenografts in mice for preclinical studies. This review will discuss the current status of the clinical utility of CTCs in patients with SCLC, highlighting their potential application to treatment decision making, drug development in clinical trials and preclinical testing.