Real-time quantitative PCR detection of circulating tumor cells using tag DNA mediated signal amplification strategy

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The level of circulating tumor cell (CTCs) is a reliable marker for tumor burden and malignant progression. Quantification of CTCs remains technically challenging due to the rarity of these cells in peripheral blood. In the present study, we established a real-time quantitative PCR (Q-PCR) based method for sensitive detection of CTCs without DNA extraction. Blood sample was first turned to erythrocyte lyses and then incubated with two antibodies, tag-DNA modified CK-19 antibody and magnetic beads conjugated EpCAM antibody. Tumor cells were further enriched by magnetic separation. Tag-DNA that immobilized on tumor cells through CK-19 antibodies were also retrieved, which was further quantified by Q-PCR. This assay was able to detect single tumor cell in a 5mL blood sample. The detection rate of clinical tumor blood sample was 92.3%. Furthermore, CTC count in patient was correlated with tumor stage and tumor status. The signal amplification was based on tag DNA rather than tumor gene, which was independent of nucleic acid extraction. With high sensitivity and convenience, this method can be a good alternative for the determination of cancer progress.HIGHLIGHTSQuantification of CTCs by Q-PCR independent of nucleic acid extraction.Easy of conduct based on magnetic separation.Tag-DNA modified antibody used for signal amplification.

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