Circulating tumour cells (CTC) in patients with metastatic carcinomas are associated with poor survival and can be used to guide therapy. Classification of CTC however remains subjective, as they are morphologically heterogeneous. We acquired digital images, using the CellSearch™ system, from blood of 185 castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) patients and 68 healthy subjects to define CTC by computer algorithms. Patient survival data was used as the training parameter for the computer to define CTC. The computer-generated CTC definition was validated on a separate CRPC dataset comprising 100 patients. The optimal definition of the computer defined CTC (aCTC) was stricter as compared to the manual CellSearch CTC (mCTC) definition and as a consequence aCTC were less frequent. The computer-generated CTC definition resulted in hazard ratios (HRs) of 2.8 for baseline and 3.9 for follow-up samples, which is comparable to the mCTC definition (baseline HR 2.9, follow-up HR 4.5). Validation resulted in HRs at baseline/follow-up of 3.9/5.4 for computer and 4.8/5.8 for manual definitions. In conclusion, we have defined and validated CTC by clinical outcome using a perfectly reproducing automated algorithm.
Ligthart, S. T., Coumans, F. A. W., Attard, G., Cassidy, A., de Bono, J. S., & Terstappen, L. W. M. M. (2011). Unbiased and automated identification of a circulating tumour cell definition that associates with overall survival. PLoS ONE, 6(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027419