CK-coated magnetic-based beads as a tool to isolate circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in human tumors

Clara Mayo, Francisco G. Ortega, Ana Giménez-Capitán, Miguel A. Molina-Vila, Maria José Serrano, Santiago Viteri, Carlota Costa, Amaya Gascó, Jordi Bertran-Alamillo, Niki Karachaliou, José Antonio Lorente, Miquel Tarón, Rafael Rosell


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) can be detected in the blood of many cancer patients and play a key role in metastasis. In addition, after the development of technologies with the necessary sensitivity and reproducibility, the diagnostic potential of these cells is being actively explored. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the CellSearch® System, based on magnetic beads coated with epithelial cell-adhesion molecule (EpCAM) antibody. Despite its usefulness, this system can miss CTCs that lose epithelial antigens due to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and, in the case of advanced NSCLC, CTCs positivity can be demonstrated only in 30-50% of patients. In an effort to overcome these drawbacks, new methods are being developed. In this study, we have evaluated CK-coated beads as a system to isolate CTCs from lung cancer patients in the clinical setting, and have evaluated if they can be a useful source of material for genetic testing. We were able to identify CTCs in 17 of the 30 patients included in the study (57%), with a range of 1 to 7 cells. In two of them, we found only CTCs with an EMT pattern. CTC positivity seemed to correlate with the clinical history of the malignancy. CTCs could be detected in more than 80% of stage III-IV lung cancer patients at presentation or in blood samples taken immediately after surgery. The percentage dropped to 13% in patients responding to chemotherapy or TKIs, raising again to 57% after tumor progression. Finally, we tested the CTCs isolated from 8 patients for EGFR and k-ras mutations, but gene amplification was successful only in the 3 patients with 4 or more CTCs.