Hensler, M., Vancurova, I., Becht, E., Palata, O., Strnad, P., Tesarova, P., Cabinakova, M., Svec, D., Kubista, M., Bartunkova, J., Spisek, R., Sojka, L. Gene expression profiling of circulating tumor cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from breast cancer patients. OncoImmunology, 5(4): e1102827, 2016. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2015.1102827. ISSN 2162-402X.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cancer cells that are released from a tumor into the bloodstream. The presence of CTCs in peripheral blood has been associated with metastasis formation in patients with breast cancer. Therefore, the molecular characterization of CTCs may improve diagnostics and support treatment decisions.
We performed gene expression profiling to evaluate the enriched CTCs and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of breast cancer patients using an expression panel of 55 breast cancer-associated genes. The study revealed several significantly differentially expressed genes in the CTC-positive samples, including a few that were exclusively expressed in these cells. However, the expression of these genes was barely detectable in the PBMC samples. Some genes were differentially expressed in PBMCs, and the expression of these genes was correlated with tumor grade and the formation of metastasis.
In this study, we have shown that the enriched CTCs of breast cancer patients overexpress genes involved in proteolytic degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM) as well as genes that play important roles in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process that may occur in these cells.