Current Breast Cancer Reports

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 146–153 | Cite as

The Evolving Role of Circulating Tumor Cells in the Personalized Management of Breast Cancer: From Enumeration to Molecular Characterization

  • Sasmit Sarangi
  • Kailash Mosalpuria
  • Michaela J. Higgins
  • Aditya Bardia
Translational Research (V Stearns, Section Editor)


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) represent tumor cells in the blood stream dislodged from the primary tumor. The presence of CTCs in the bloodstream provides a unique opportunity to sample cancer tissue by means of a relatively less-invasive “liquid biopsy.” Over the past decade, there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of research examining the potential clinical utility of CTCs in the management of cancer. A number of techniques to refine the sensitivity and range of CTC assays are also in development. In this article, we review the recent developments in the current and potential clinical applications of CTCs in breast cancer. CTC enumeration already has an established role as a prognostic biomarker in metastatic breast cancer, whereas molecular characterization of CTCs can serve as a potential predictive biomarker for therapy selection, pharmacodynamic evaluation, and identification of novel actionable targets for novel therapies. The role of CTCs in breast cancer screening and detection of recurrence is currently limited. Further development in techniques will be pivotal in enhancing the broad applicability of CTCs and advancing the field of personalized breast cancer therapy.


Circulating tumor cells Molecular characterization Breast cancer Personalized medicine 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Sasmit Sarangi, Kailash Mosulpuria, Michaela J. Higgins, Aditya Bardia declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sasmit Sarangi
    • 1
  • Kailash Mosalpuria
    • 2
  • Michaela J. Higgins
    • 1
  • Aditya Bardia
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer CenterHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.University of NebraskaOmahaUSA

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