Could new test for CTSCs help prostate cancer patients?


To date there has only been one test available for assay of levels of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in men with prostate cancer: the CellSearch test made by Veridex. This test is widely recognized to come with a variety of challenges, and the potential of CTCs in assessing risk for progression of prostate cancer (and other cancers) has therefore been limited.

A recent article by Iinuma et al., in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, has described what certainly seems to be a much better form of assay for specific types of CTCs. The test as described was used to assay a marker of the presence of what are known as circulating tumor stem cells (CTSCs) in patients who had been treated for colorectal cancer, but there is no good reason why an analagous test couldn’t be applied in patients with prostate cancer too.

A detailed editorial by Wicha and Hayes in the Journal of Clinical Oncology discusses the prospective merits of this new test for CTSCs, and a less technical article on the Medscape Oncology site also discusses the new test.

The potential value of the new test is based on the ability to distinguish between circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in general and circulating tumor stem cells (CTSCs), which are believed to have greater potential for invasive and metastatic impact. The test described by Iinuma et al. appears to be able to selectively identify markers that are associated with CTSCs but not with other forms of stem cell. There will be a great deal more work needed to validate the potential of the test described by Iinuma et al., but Wicha and Hayes are clearly impressed by the potential of this new test, which may hold out considerable opportunities in the future management of men with progressive forms of prostate cancer.

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