Circulating tumor cells in hepatocellular carcinoma: single-cell based analysis, preclinical models, and clinical applications.
ABSTRACT: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are shed into the bloodstream from primary tumors and metastatic lesions and provide significant information about tumor progression and metastasis. CTCs contribute to tumor metastasis through the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). CTC clusters and stem-like phenotypes lead to a more aggressive and metastatic potential. CTCs retain the heterogeneity and imitate the nature of corresponding primary tumors. Therefore, it is important to use single-cell based analysis to obtain information on tumor heterogeneity and biology. CTCs are also good candidates for building preclinical models (especially 3D organoid cultures) for drug screening, disease modeling, genome editing, tumor immunity research, and organ-like biobank establishment. In this article, we summarize the current CTC capture technology, dissect the phenotypes associated with CTC metastasis, and review the progress in single-cell based analysis and preclinical modeling of the pattern and kinetics of CTCs. In particular, we discuss the use of CTCs to assess the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Project description:The dissemination of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) by lymph fluid is one of the key events in the development of tumor metastasis. However, little progress has been made in studying lymphatic CTCs (L-CTCs). Here, we demonstrate the detection of L-CTCs in preclinical mouse models of melanoma and breast cancer using in vivo high-sensitivity photoacoustic and fluorescent flow cytometry. We discovered that L-CTCs are be detected in pre-metastatic disease stage. The smallest primary tumor that shed L-CTCs was measured as 0.094mm×0.094mm, its volume was calculated as 0.0004 mm3; and its productivity was estimated as 1 L-CTC per 30 minutes. As the disease progressed, primary tumors continued releasing L-CTCs with certain individual dynamics. The integrated assessment of lymph and blood underlined the parallel dissemination of CTCs at all disease stages. However, the analysis of links between L-CTC counts, blood CTC (B-CTC) counts, primary tumor size and metastasis did not reveal statistically significant correlations, likely due to L-CTC heterogeneity. Altogether, our results showed the feasibility of our diagnostic platform using photoacoustic flow cytometry for preclinical L-CTC research with translational potential. Our findings also demonstrated new insights into lymphatic system involvement in CTC dissemination. They help to lay the scientific foundation for the consideration of L-CTCs as prognostic markers of metastasis and to emphasize the integrative assessment of lymph and blood.
Project description:Carcinoma cells undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT); however, contributions of EMT heterogeneity to disease progression remain a matter of debate. Here, we addressed the EMT status of ex vivo cultured circulating and disseminated tumor cells (CTCs/DTCs) in a syngeneic mouse model of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Epithelial-type CTCs with a restricted mesenchymal transition had the strongest lung metastases formation ability, whereas mesenchymal-type CTCs showed limited metastatic ability. EpCAM expression served as a surrogate marker to evaluate the EMT heterogeneity of clinical samples from MBC, including metastases, CTCs, and DTCs. The proportion of epithelial-type CTCs, and especially DTCs, correlated with distant metastases and poorer outcome of patients with MBC. This study fosters our understanding of EMT in metastasis and underpins heterogeneous EMT phenotypes as important parameters for tumor prognosis and treatment. We further suggest that EpCAM-dependent CTC isolation systems will underestimate CTC numbers but will quantify clinically relevant metastatic cells.
Project description:Tumors can shed thousands of cells into the circulation daily. These circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are heterogeneous, and their phenotypes change dynamically. Real-time monitoring of CTC phenotypes is crucial to elucidate the role of CTCs in the metastatic cascade. Here, we monitor phenotypic changes in CTCs in mice xenografted with tumors with varying aggressiveness during cancer progression and a course of chemotherapy to study the metastatic potential of CTCs and changes in the properties of these cells in response to treatment. A new device that enables magnetic ranking cytometry (MagRC) is employed to profile the phenotypic properties of CTCs. Overall, CTCs from metastatic xenografts in mice display dynamic and heterogeneous profiles while non-metastatic models had static profiles. Decreased heterogeneity followed by a reduction in metastasis incidence was observed after a course of chemotherapy administered to highly metastatic xenografts. Phenotypic profiling of CTCs could be employed to monitor disease progression and predict therapeutic responses.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) represent a temporal "snapshot" of a patient's cancer and changes that occur during disease evolution. There is an extensive literature studying CTCs in breast cancer patients, and particularly in those with metastatic disease. In parallel, there is an increasing use of patient-derived models in preclinical investigations of human cancers. Yet studies are still limited demonstrating CTC shedding and metastasis formation in patient-derived models of breast cancer.<h4>Methods</h4>We used seven patient-derived orthotopic xenograft (PDOX) models generated from triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients to study CTCs and distant metastases. Tumor fragments from PDOX tissue from each of the seven models were implanted into 57 NOD scid gamma (NSG) mice, and tumor growth and volume were monitored. Human CTC capture from mouse blood was first optimized on the marker-agnostic Vortex CTC isolation platform, and whole blood was processed from 37 PDOX tumor-bearing mice.<h4>Results</h4>Staining and imaging revealed the presence of CTCs in 32/37 (86%). The total number of CTCs varied between different PDOX tumor models and between individual mice bearing the same PDOX tumors. CTCs were heterogeneous and showed cytokeratin (CK) positive, vimentin (VIM) positive, and mixed CK/VIM phenotypes. Metastases were detected in the lung (20/57, 35%), liver (7/57, 12%), and brain (1/57, less than 2%). The seven different PDOX tumor models displayed varying degrees of metastatic potential, including one TNBC PDOX tumor model that failed to generate any detectable metastases (0/8 mice) despite having CTCs present in the blood of 5/5 tested, suggesting that CTCs from this particular PDOX tumor model may typify metastatic inefficiency.<h4>Conclusion</h4>PDOX tumor models that shed CTCs and develop distant metastases represent an important tool for investigating TNBC.
Project description:The presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and CTC clusters, also known as tumor microemboli, in biological fluids has long been described. Intensive research on single CTCs has made a significant contribution in understanding tumor invasion, metastasis tropism, and intra-tumor heterogeneity. Moreover, their being minimally invasive biomarkers has positioned them for diagnosis, prognosis, and recurrence monitoring tools. Initially, CTC clusters were out of focus, but major recent advances in the knowledge of their biogenesis and dissemination reposition them as critical actors in the pathophysiology of cancer, especially metastasis. Increasing evidence suggests that "united" CTCs, organized in clusters, resist better and carry stronger metastatic capacities than "divided" single CTCs. This review gathers recent insight on CTC cluster origin and dissemination. We will focus on their distinct molecular package necessary to resist multiple cell deaths that all circulating cells normally face. We will describe the molecular basis of their increased metastatic potential as compared to single CTCs. We will consider their clinical relevance as prognostic biomarkers. Finally, we will propose future directions for research and clinical applications in this promising topic in cancer.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The evaluation for surgical resectability of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) patients is not only imaging-based but highly subjective. An objective method is urgently needed. We report on the clinical value of a phenotypic circulating tumor cell (CTC)-based blood test for a preoperative prognostic assessment of tumor metastasis and overall survival (OS) of PDAC patients.<h4>Methods</h4>Venous blood samples from 46 pathologically confirmed PDAC patients were collected prospectively before surgery and immunoassayed using a specially designed TU-chip™. Captured CTCs were differentiated into epithelial (E), mesenchymal and hybrid (H) phenotypes. A further 45 non-neoplastic healthy donors provided blood for cell line validation study and CTC false positive quantification.<h4>Findings</h4>A validated multivariable model consisting of disjunctively combined CTC phenotypes: "H-CTC?15.0 CTCs/2ml OR E-CTC?11.0 CTCs/2ml" generated an optimal prediction of metastasis with a sensitivity of 1.000 (95% CI 0.889-1.000) and specificity of 0.886 (95% CI 0.765-0.972). The adjusted Kaplan-Meier median OS constructed using Cox proportional-hazard models and stratified for E-CTC?<?11.0 CTCs/2?ml was 16.5?months and for E-CTC???11.0 CTCs/2?ml was 5.5?months (HR?=?0.050, 95% CI 0.004-0.578, P?=?.016). These OS results were consistent with the outcome of the metastatic analysis.<h4>Interpretation</h4>Our work suggested that H-CTC is a better predictor of metastasis and E-CTC is a significant independent predictor of OS. The CTC phenotyping model has the potential to be developed into a reliable and accurate blood test for metastatic and OS assessments of PDAC patients. FUND: National Natural Science Foundation of China; Zhejiang Province Science and Technology Program; China Scholarship Council.
Project description:Uncovering CTCs phenotypes offer the promise to dissect their heterogeneity related to metastatic competence. CTC survival rates are highly variable and this can lead to many questions as yet unexplored properties of CTCs responsible for invasion and metastasis vs dormancy. We isolated CTC subsets from peripheral blood of patients diagnosed with or without breast cancer brain metastasis. CTC subsets were selected for EpCAM negativity but positivity for CD44(+)/CD24(-) stem cell signature; along with combinatorial expression of uPAR and int ?1, two markers directly implicated in breast cancer dormancy mechanisms. CTC subsets were cultured in vitro generating 3D CTC tumorspheres which were interrogated for biomarker profiling and biological characteristics. We identified proliferative and invasive properties of 3D CTC tumorspheres distinctive upon uPAR/int ?1 combinatorial expression. The molecular characterization of uPAR/int ?1 CTC subsets may enhance abilities to prospectively identify patients who may be at high risk of developing BCBM.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Tumor-derived extracellular vesicles (tdEVs) and circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood of metastatic cancer patients associate with poor outcomes. In this study, we explored the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) expression on CTCs and tdEVs of metastatic breast cancer patients. METHODS:Blood samples from 98 patients (CLCC-IC-2006-04 study) were originally processed with the CellSearch® system using the CTC kit and anti-HER2 as an additional marker in the staining cocktail. CTCs and tdEVs were automatically enumerated from the generated CellSearch images using the open-source ACCEPT software. RESULTS:CTCs and tdEVs were subdivided based on their cytokeratin (CK) and HER2 phenotype into CK+HER2-, CK-HER2+, and CK+HER2+. The inclusion of anti-HER2 increased the percentage of informative samples with ??1 detectable CTC from 89 to 95%. CK- CTCs and tdEVs correlated equally well with the clinical outcome as CK+ CTCs and tdEVs. Inter- and intra-patient heterogeneity was found for the CTC/tdEV phenotypes, and the presence of 2 or 3 classes of CTCs/tdEVs was associated with worse prognosis compared to a uniform CTC/tdEV phenotype present (1 class). The use of ??7% HER2+CK+ tdEVs can predict HER2 expression of the tissue with 74% sensitivity and specificity using the HER2 amplification status of the primary tumor as a classification variable. CONCLUSIONS:HER2 can be detected on CTCs and tdEVs not expressing CK, and these CK- CTCs/tdEVs have similar clinical relevance to CTCs and tdEVs expressing CK. tdEVs perform better than CTCs in predicting the HER2 status of the primary tissue. CTC and tdEV heterogeneity in the blood of patients is inversely associated with overall survival.
Project description:To improve cancer therapy, it is critical to target metastasizing cells. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are rare cells found in the blood of patients with solid tumors and may play a key role in cancer dissemination. Uncovering CTC phenotypes offers a potential avenue to inform treatment. However, CTC transcriptional profiling is limited by leukocyte contamination; an approach to surmount this problem is single cell analysis. Here we demonstrate feasibility of performing high dimensional single CTC profiling, providing early insight into CTC heterogeneity and allowing comparisons to breast cancer cell lines widely used for drug discovery.We purified CTCs using the MagSweeper, an immunomagnetic enrichment device that isolates live tumor cells from unfractionated blood. CTCs that met stringent criteria for further analysis were obtained from 70% (14/20) of primary and 70% (21/30) of metastatic breast cancer patients; none were captured from patients with non-epithelial cancer (n = 20) or healthy subjects (n = 25). Microfluidic-based single cell transcriptional profiling of 87 cancer-associated and reference genes showed heterogeneity among individual CTCs, separating them into two major subgroups, based on 31 highly expressed genes. In contrast, single cells from seven breast cancer cell lines were tightly clustered together by sample ID and ER status. CTC profiles were distinct from those of cancer cell lines, questioning the suitability of such lines for drug discovery efforts for late stage cancer therapy.For the first time, we directly measured high dimensional gene expression in individual CTCs without the common practice of pooling such cells. Elevated transcript levels of genes associated with metastasis NPTN, S100A4, S100A9, and with epithelial mesenchymal transition: VIM, TGFß1, ZEB2, FOXC1, CXCR4, were striking compared to cell lines. Our findings demonstrate that profiling CTCs on a cell-by-cell basis is possible and may facilitate the application of 'liquid biopsies' to better model drug discovery.
Project description:Metastasis is the cause of most prostate cancer (PCa) deaths and has been associated with circulating tumor cells (CTCs). The presence of ?5 CTCs/7.5mL of blood is a poor prognosis indicator in metastatic PCa when assessed by the CellSearch® system, the "gold standard" clinical platform. However, ~35% of metastatic PCa patients assessed by CellSearch® have undetectable CTCs. We hypothesize that this is due to epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and subsequent loss of necessary CTC detection markers, with important implications for PCa metastasis. Two pre-clinical assays were developed to assess human CTCs in xenograft models; one comparable to CellSearch® (EpCAM-based) and one detecting CTCs semi-independent of EMT status via combined staining with EpCAM/HLA (human leukocyte antigen). In vivo differences in CTC generation, kinetics, metastasis and EMT status were determined using 4 PCa models with progressive epithelial (LNCaP, LNCaP-C42B) to mesenchymal (PC-3, PC-3M) phenotypes. Assay validation demonstrated that the CellSearch®-based assay failed to detect a significant number (~40-50%) of mesenchymal CTCs. In vivo, PCa with an increasingly mesenchymal phenotype shed greater numbers of CTCs more quickly and with greater metastatic capacity than PCa with an epithelial phenotype. Notably, the CellSearch®-based assay captured the majority of CTCs shed during early-stage disease in vivo, and only after establishment of metastases were a significant number of undetectable CTCs present. This study provides important insight into the influence of EMT on CTC generation and subsequent metastasis, and highlights that novel technologies aimed at capturing mesenchymal CTCs may only be useful in the setting of advanced metastatic disease.