Circulating tumor cells found in patients with localized and advanced pancreatic cancer

Birte Kulemann, Martha B. Pitman, Andrew S. Liss, Nakul Valsangkar, Carlos Fernández-Del Castillo, Keith D. Lillemoe, Jens Hoeppner, Mari Mino-Kenudson, Andrew L. Warshaw, Sarah P. Thayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Objectives Isolation of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) holds the promise of diagnosing and molecular profiling cancers from a blood sample. Here, we test a simple new low-cost filtration device for CTC isolation in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Methods Peripheral blood samples drawn from healthy donors and PDAC patients were filtered using ScreenCell devices, designed to capture CTCs for cytologic and molecular analysis. Giemsa-stained specimens were evaluated by a pancreatic cytopathologist blinded to the histological diagnosis. Circulating tumor cell DNA was subjected to KRAS mutational analysis. Results Spiking experiments demonstrated a CTC capture efficiency as low as 2 cells/mL of blood. Circulating tumor cells were identified by either malignant cytology or presence of KRAS mutation in 73% of 11 patients (P = 0.001). Circulating tumor cells were identified in 3 of 4 patients with early (≤American Joint Committee on Cancer stage IIB) and in 5 of 7 patients with advanced (≥ American Joint Committee on Cancer stage III) PDAC. No CTCs were detected in blood from 9 health donors. Conclusions Circulating tumor cells can be found in most patients with PDAC of any stage, whether localized, locally advanced, or metastatic. The ability to capture, cytologically identify, and genetically analyze CTCs suggests a possible tool for the diagnosis and characterization of genetic alterations of PDAC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-550
Number of pages4
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 25 2015


  • KRAS mutation
  • circulating tumor cells
  • pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Hepatology
  • Endocrinology


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