Of CTCs, EMT, PSA, and megakaryocytes … Huh?


A newly published study in Clinical Cancer Research has implied the potential development of a completely new and much more accurate way to be able to identify risk for metastatic prostate cancer.

The basic premise behind the new paper by Xu et al. (see also this news item on the ScienceDaily web site) is that by combining PSA data with data about the number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood that are undergoing epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), one is able to obtain a far more accurate assessment of risk for the presence of even microscopically small amounts of metastatic prostate cancer. In  addition, by combining these data with additional data on the presence of other cells known as “megakaryocyctes” one can get a score that can be used to identify patients at higher levels of riskwho were 10 times more likely to die from their disease in the short term.

Megakaryocytes are a relatively rare type of cell that have never previously been known to have any relationship to cancer prognosis, but the current study has shown that the presence of these cells was strongly associated with patient survival, and that patients with higher megakaryocyte cell counts tended to have better survival.

Now we should be clear that this study is based on data from  just 81 patients so far, and so there will be a way to go before this test is “ready for prime time” and becomes clinically available outside of a research setting. However. the test is being developed for clinical use as fast as feasibly possible by a company in the UK called Angle plc.

According to the available information:

  • The ability to capture and sort CTCs into specific types with a high degree of accuracy uses proprietary technology owned by Angle and known as Parasortix™.
  • The combination of PSA data with data from the EMT-type CTCs allowed prediction of the risk for metastatic prostate cancer with 92 percent accuracy
  • The combination of PSA data, EMT-type CTC data, and metakaryocyte data allowed identification of patients who were 10 times more likely to die from their disease in the short term.

This new type of test can be run with just a simple blood sample, but we will need to see data from larger numbers of patients before it is possible to be sure of the specificity and the sensitivity of this test in clinical practice.

One Response

  1. Early info, but interesting, so another “we shall see.”

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