Prostate-specific markers to identify rare prostate cancer cells in liquid biopsies

Emma E. van der Toom, Haley D. Axelrod, Jean J. de la Rosette, Theo M. de Reijke, Kenneth J. Pienta, Kenneth C. Valkenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Despite improvements in early detection and advances in treatment, patients with prostate cancer continue to die from their disease. Minimal residual disease after primary definitive treatment can lead to relapse and distant metastases, and increasing evidence suggests that circulating tumour cells (CTCs) and bone marrow-derived disseminated tumour cells (BM-DTCs) can offer clinically relevant biological insights into prostate cancer dissemination and metastasis. Using epithelial markers to accurately detect CTCs and BM-DTCs is associated with difficulties, and prostate-specific markers are needed for the detection of these cells using rare cell assays. Putative prostate-specific markers have been identified, and an optimized strategy for staining rare cancer cells from liquid biopsies using these markers is required. The ideal prostate-specific marker will be expressed on every CTC or BM-DTC throughout disease progression (giving high sensitivity) and will not be expressed on non-prostate-cancer cells in the sample (giving high specificity). Some markers might not be specific enough to the prostate to be used as individual markers of prostate cancer cells, whereas others could be truly prostate-specific and would make ideal markers for use in rare cell assays. The goal of future studies is to use sensitive and specific prostate markers to consistently and reliably identify rare cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-22
Number of pages16
JournalNature Reviews Urology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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