(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A new high-definition blood test can reliably detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) for several different cancer types, data from five studies using the assay published in Physical Biology on February 3 have found.

“It’s a next-generation technology,” said Peter Kuhn, PhD, of The Scripps Research Institute, primary inventor of the high-definition blood test. “It significantly boosts our ability to monitor, predict, and understand cancer progression, including metastasis, which is the major cause of death for cancer patients.” The high-definition method provides an unprecedented portrait of the CTCs, according to the investigators.

The international collaboration represented by the five studies demonstrated the accuracy and effectiveness of the enrichment-free immunofluorescence detection HD-CTC test and explores the utility of the technology for diagnosing and monitoring patients and improving cancer laboratory research.

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The first study found the HD-CTC assay detected >5 HD-CTCs mL−1 of blood in 80% of patients with metastatic prostate cancer (n=20), 70% with metastatic breast cancer (n=30), 50% with metastatic pancreatic cancer (n=18), and in 0% of healthy controls (n=15). Clusters ranging from 2 to >30 HD-CTCs were identified in the majority of patients with cancer.

The second study found HD-CTC could detect microtumor emboli in 43% of 71 patients with advanced prostate (n=15), non-small-cell lung (n=14), pancreatic (n=18), and breast cancers (n=24), and 0% of healthy controls (n=15).

In the third study, investigators found differences between two classes of prostate cancer cell lines, suggesting cancer cells should be studied from individual patients as well as models of prostate cancer biology.

Results of the fourth study found CTCs detected in 68% of samples from 28 patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) over periods of up to a year had a propensity for increased detection as the disease progressed in individual patients. An unfavorable prognosis was observed when higher numbers of CTCs were detected.

In the fifth study, HD-CTCs from 78 chemotherapy-naïve patients with NSCLC found 73% had a positive count; the mean was 4.4 HD-CTCs mL−1 (range 0–515.6). No significant difference was detected in the medians of HD-CTC counts and stage of disease, suggesting the prognostic value of CTC profiling in early-stage lung cancer warrants investigation.

“If HD-CTC works on the day after cancer diagnosis, as we’ve shown, then one can easily imagine that it would work the day before diagnosis, too,” Dr. Kuhn said.

The role of HD-CTC as a potential screening test is now being explored, as is its development for use in clinical monitoring and cancer research. Dr. Kuhn has founded a San Diego-based biotechnology company, Epic Sciences, Inc., to develop HD-CTC commercially for companion diagnostic products in personalized cancer care.

Scripps Research Institute biophysicist Peter Kuhn and colleagues have captured images of tumor cells circulating in the blood stream, such as this cluster of lung tumor cells (in red-blue) shown interacting with normal blood cells (green-blue) recovered from a blood sample of a patient with lung cancer. (Image courtesy of the Kuhn lab, The Scripps Research Institute.) (PRNewsFoto/The Scripps Research Institute)

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