Recent advances in the biology of human circulating tumour cells and metastasis

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The development of a metastatic disease is recognised as the cause of death of over 90% of patients diagnosed with cancer. Understanding the biological features of metastasis has been hampered for a long time by the difficulties to study widespread cancerous lesions in patients, and by the absence of reliable methods to isolate viable metastatic cells during disease progression. These difficulties negatively impact on our ability to develop new agents that are tailored to block the spread of cancer. Yet, recent advances in specialised devices for the isolation of circulating tumour cells (CTCs), hand-in-hand with technologies that enable single cell resolution interrogation of their genome and transcriptome, are now paving the way to understanding those molecular mechanisms that drive the formation of metastasis. In this review, we aim to summarise some of the latest discoveries in CTC biology in the context of several types of cancer, and to highlight those findings that have a potential to improve the clinical management of patients with metastatic cancer.

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Gkountela, S., Szczerba, B., Donato, C., & Aceto, N. (2016, July 1). Recent advances in the biology of human circulating tumour cells and metastasis. ESMO Open. BMJ Publishing Group.

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