Most breast cancer patients die due to metastases, and the early onset of this multistep process is usually missed by current tumor staging modalities. Therefore, ultrasensitive techniques have been developed to enable the enrichment, detection, isolation and characterization of disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow and circulating tumor cells in the peripheral blood of cancer patients. There is increasing evidence that the presence of these cells is associated with an unfavorable prognosis related to metastatic progression in the bone and other organs. This review focuses on investigations regarding the biology and clinical relevance of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer.
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