The ability to detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) as they travel through the blood can play an important role in early diagnosis, characterization of cancer subtypes, treatment monitoring and metastasis. By measuring a patient’s CTC levels over time, clinicians can quickly determine if a particular cancer treatment is working.
CTCs can also be tested to identify genetic mutations associated with a tumor. Many newer cancer medications are designed to target specific genetic mutations, so they work best for limited types and stages of cancer. CTCs can provide a quick method to help physicians choose the most appropriate targeted therapy for a particular patient.
link to full National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering release, including podcast interview with MGH investigator Mehmet Toner.