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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2010, Article ID 392652, 9 pages
Review Article

Circulating Tumor Cells in Gastrointestinal Malignancies: Current Techniques and Clinical Implications

1Department of Visceral- and Transplantation Surgery, Department of Surgery, University Hospital Zurich, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland
2Department of Medicine (Cancer Research), West German Cancer Center, University Hospital Essen, 45122 Essen, Germany

Received 12 April 2009; Accepted 28 September 2009

Academic Editor: Vassilis Georgoulias

Copyright © 2010 Georg Lurje et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since their introduction more than 50 years by Engell, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have been evaluated in cancer patients and their detection has been correlated with clinical outcome, in esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancer. With the availability of refined technologies, the identification of CTCs from peripheral blood is emerging as a useful tool for the detection of malignancy, monitoring disease progression, and measuring response to therapy. However, increasing evidence suggests a variety of factors to be responsible for disease progression. The analysis of a single CTC marker is therefore unlikely to accurately predict progression of disease with sufficient resolution and reproducibility. Here we discuss the current concept of CTCs, summarize the available techniques for their detection and characterization, and aim to provide a comprehensive update on the clinical implications of CTCs in gastrointestinal (GI) malignancies.