Clinical utility of non-EpCAM based circulating tumor cell assays

R. Garland Austin, Tony Jun Huang, Mengxi Wu, Andrew J. Armstrong, Tian Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Methods enabling the isolation, detection, and characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in blood have clear potential to facilitate precision medicine approaches in patients with cancer, not only for prognostic purposes but also for prediction of the benefits of specific therapies in oncology. However, current CTC assays, which capture CTCs based on expression of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), fail to capture cells from de-differentiated tumors and carcinomas undergoing loss of the epithelial phenotype during the invasion/metastatic process. To address this limitation, many groups are developing non-EpCAM based CTC assays that incorporate nanotechnology to improve test sensitivity for rare but important cells that may otherwise go undetected, and therefore may improve upon clinical utility. In this review, we outline emerging non-EpCAM based CTC assays utilizing nanotechnology approaches for CTC capture or characterization, including dendrimers, magnetic nanoparticles, gold nanoparticles, negative selection chip or software-based on-slide methods, and nano-scale substrates. In addition, we address challenges that remain for the clinical translation of these platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-142
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarker
  • Circulating tumor cell
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Nanotechnology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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