Relevance of molecular characterization of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer in the era of targeted therapies

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Development in circulating tumor cells (CTCs) technologies represents a valuable tool for the better understanding of tumor biology. The clinical relevance of CTCs as a prognostic factor is well established both in metastatic and early-stage breast cancer patients. The eradication or decrease of CTCs following treatment is associated with improved clinical outcomes. Because of the availability of novel cancer treatments that specifically target tumor cells underlying signaling pathways, molecular characterization of CTCs has strong potential to translate into personalized treatments. A handful of studies have explored relevant markers such as the estrogen and progesterone receptor, HER2 and EGF receptor. However, there is not a single validation of a molecular marker in CTCs that provides prognostic information or predicts response to cancer therapies. This review describes the latest results on the characterization of breast cancer CTCs with a focus on CTC biology and implications in clinical practice.

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