Individual profiling of circulating tumor cell composition in patients with non-small cell lung cancer receiving platinum based treatment

Ivonne Nel, Ulrich Jehn, Thomas Gauler, Andreas-Claudius Hoffmann


Background: Circulating tumor cells (CTC) could serve as a “liquid biopsy” for individualizing and monitoring treatment in patients with solid tumors as recently shown by our group. We assessed which nonhematopoietic cell types are identifiable in the peripheral blood of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and correlated those to clinical characteristics.
Methods: Blood from NSCLC patients (n=43) was processed as previously described. For subtype analyses CTC were negatively enriched by hematopoietic cell depletion. The remaining cell suspension included preenriched tumor cells and was spun onto glass slides and further characterized by multi-immunofluorescence staining against epithelial markers pan-cytokeratin (CK) and epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), mesenchymal marker N-cadherin, stem cell marker CD133, hematopoietic marker CD45 and nuclear counterstain DAPI. Individual cell type profiles were analyzed and correlated to therapeutic outcome.
Results: Among other associations of CTC subtypes with clinical parameters Kaplan-Meier test revealed that an increased CD133-positive to pan-CK-positive cell type ratio (stem cell like to epithelial ratio) and the presence of mesenchymal N-cadherin+ cells, both were significantly associated to shortened PFS (2 vs. 8 months, P=0.003, HR =4.43; 5 vs. 8 months, P=0.03, HR =2.63).
Conclusions: Our data suggest that different CTC populations are identifiable in peripheral blood and that these individual cell type profiles might be used to predict outcome to platinum based systemic therapies in lung cancer patients.